LAS VEGAS — While working as one of three Dallas Mavericks summer league head coaches, Jared Dudley wants everyone take a deep breath and stop judging rookie Jaden Hardy too harshly.
Hardy made a spectacular debut in the Mavs’ summer league opener against the Chicago Bulls on July 8 when he had 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting. But Hardy stumbled and followed that up last Monday against the Chicago Bulls. Utah Jazz with just 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
Last Tuesday, Hardy put on another 4-of-15 shooting display while scoring 11 points against the Phoenix Suns. And Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks, Hardy scored just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Hardy finished the Summer League game with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and seven turnovers in Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. In the Mavs’ five summer championship games, the 6-foot-4, 198-pound guard averaged 15 points and was 26 of 75 from the field for 34.7 percent.
With more time to learn the fine nuances of the NBA game, Dudley insists Hardy will be a much more productive player. And he expects him to become a key cog in the Mavs machine next season.
“He’s 19,” Dudley said. “At 19, I was eating pizza at Boston College.
“This kid still has a long way to go, he has great coaches and staff who want to work with him. He’s going to be tired of us as much as we want to work with him. Give this kid a few years and let’s see where he is.
The Mavs were so enamored with Hardy that they returned to the NBA draft last month so they could secure his services. Hardy was expected to be a first-round pick after averaging 17.7 points last season with the NBA’s G League Ignite.
However, he surprisingly slipped out of the first round and the Sacramento Kings picked Hardy with the 37e overall selection, then traded his draft rights to the Mavs for second-round picks in 2024 and 2028.
Regarding his performance in five games in the summer league, Hardy said: “I feel like I did pretty well. I just come in and try to do what the coaching staff wanted me to do. Play the right way, make the right play, and then really focus on my defense and try to become a better defender.
Unlike other summer leaguers, Hardy had the added pressure of playing in Las Vegas in front of many of his family and friends. That’s because he attended high school in Henderson, Nevada — a suburb of Las Vegas — and was a consensus five-star recruit in high school and one of the top two players nationwide as a senior in 2021.
“It was super fun to come back and play in front of people where I was in high school,” Hardy said. “I have a lot of friends and several family members came out to support me, so it was super fun to be back.
“I didn’t see it as pressure. I just looked at it as another opportunity to go out there and play a game that I love.
At times during his time on the Vegas court, everything was probably so surreal for Hardy, who turned 20 on July 5.
“I grew up watching the summer league, so just being able to come back and play there was super fun,” he said. “I’m sure it’s a moment I will remember forever.”
Of course, Hardy will remember the stark differences between the G League and the Summer League. Again, he noticed so many similarities between the two.
“The biggest difference is probably taking (your game) to another level,” he said. “But other than that, I’ll say it’s pretty much the same. Same thing. NBA guys. NBA-level talent.
Hardy entered the summer league with a desire to challenge himself and add something essential to his game that did not exist before the Disorganized. And he believes he has accomplished this mission.
“What I improved the most was becoming a better playmaker, making the right play, making the right reads, and then challenging myself defensively to be a better defender, to be in the right places, to be in the right places where I’m supposed to be on defense,” Hardy said. “And play the right way.”
With Jalen Brunson leaving the New York Knicks via free agency, Hardy knows there will be plenty of opportunities for him to work his way into the Mavs rotation next season. So the playing time he gets is up to him and the progress he makes.
“For him, we’re going to have to work with him,” Dudley said. “It’s not going to be something overnight.”
A certified gym rat, Hardy is fully aware that extra time in the gym and in the movie theater are his best weapons if he is to become the game changer he ultimately wants to become.
“Some of the goals I have going into the offseason are to get in better shape and then really focus on what (the Mavs) decide for me to improve and be in the gym with the coaches,” did he declare. “Personally, as far as the season is concerned, we want to win the championship.
“This is a team that just came out of the Western Conference Finals, so we want to be back there and competing for a championship. And me I want to do whatever I have to do to help the team win.
To that end, Hardy couldn’t help but think that the next time he puts on a Mavs jersey in an organized practice session, he’ll be on the same court as the three-time All-Star of the team – superstar playmaker Luka Doncic. . That will happen when the Mavs begin training camp in just over two months.
“I can’t wait to be there,” Hardy said. “I’m sure it’s going to be fun, so I’m excited.”
In the meantime, now that summer league is over, Hardy is going to backtrack a bit, rest up, and find a place to stay in Dallas.
“What’s next for me is to get to Dallas and find myself a spot,” he said. “And stay there and lock in and get better.”
And when looking back and analyzing his experience in his first summer league, Hardy said: “I gave it my all. I just considered it a blessing and an opportunity.
DUDLEY ENJOYED HIS FIRST HEAD COACHING EXPERIENCE: Jared Dudley coached the Mavs in their games against Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers, Greg St. Jean coached the game against Chicago, and George Galanopoulos coached the games against Utah and Milwaukee.
It was Dudley’s first time as a head coach and he really enjoyed the experience.
“I learned night and day from a series,” he said. “Keep training them even when you’re down.
“It doesn’t matter the score. These guys are always trying to improve themselves and improve their careers.
Dudley began his coaching career last August after coach Jason Kidd hired him once Dudley retired after a 14-year career with seven different NBA teams. Dudley said being in the hot seat is totally different and requires a lot more focus than sitting on the bench one or two seats away from the head coach.
“Coaching, the best way is through experience,” he said. “So I have to do this. I looked at what I could have done differently, sub-patterns, playing calls when they change.
“When you’re an NBA player, your rookie year, you watch a movie. I’m going to go back and watch a movie of myself, practice plans for where I can be better in my games and where I can be neat.
And when he evaluates everything, Dudley says, “This is my freshman year. One day I’ll be coaching summer league and doing it on my own, so I’m excited.
BRIEFLY: The Mavs finished the summer league game with an 0-5 record. But since losing two games by a total of two points, they realize things could have been much better. “When we came here, (Coach Greg) St. Jean, his message was to be the hardest working, most selfless team,” coach Jared Dudley said. “And we certainly did sometimes.” The Mavs lost their summer league opener to Chicago, 100-99, in overtime. After that, they lost to the Utah Jazz, 83-82. This was followed by losses to the Phoenix Suns (105-78), Milwaukee Bucks (100-89) and Los Angeles Lakers (95-84). After Saturday’s game against the Lakers, Dudley said, “We told (the players) we appreciate you working like crazy. We had meetings, movie sessions (and) no one complained. They were coachable, and that’s what they’ll need if they’re going to be able to move on. Being coachable (and) working. I simply thank them for their opportunity.