Although his Blue team lost to the White team, 86-85, in overtime, in a Saturday afternoon scrimmage at American Airlines Center, assistant coach Jared Dudley couldn’t help but sing the praises of rookie guard Jaden Hardy.
Playing like a wily veteran, Hardy tallied 15 of his 18 points in the second half while looking very comfortable on the court. He also converted four three-pointers.
“I think the bright points for our team, for the Blue, is the rookie Hardy,” Dudley said. “(It was good) to see his knack of wanting to shoot the big shots. His ability to want to get into the lane and put pressure on them is what we need.”
Hardy graduated from high school in 2021 and averaged 17.7 points last season for the NBA’s G League Ignite. If Saturday is any indication of what’s to come, Hardy made the transition from the G League to the NBA look seamless — albeit it in just a scrimmage.
“Really, I’m just going out there by keeping the game simple and making the right read and making the simple play,” Hardy said. “I felt like just being out there it was going to come to me. It felt great to be out there playing in front of the fans for the first time and just competing against the guys.
“But really, it’s done with all the work that I put in this summer with coach (Sean) Sweeney and coach (Greg) St. Jean, and then sitting down with coach (Jason) Kidd this morning and getting what they wanted from me and applying it to our workouts. That’s what helped me.”
Hardy particularly seemed to be on the same page with guard Spencer Dinwiddie on numerous occasions.
“That’s just from applying open runs together,” Hardy said, “and him just being a vet and giving me information and wanting to help me out.”
That information paid off Saturday as at times – other than the incomparable Luka Doncic – Hardy looked like the best perimeter player on the court.
Late in regulation, Hardy and Doncic each traded four baskets, with a three-pointer by Hardy putting his Blue team ahead, 83-80, with a little over a minute remaining in the game.
“What I’m looking forward to really is just playing my first NBA game. . .and going out there and competing with my teammates,” Hardy said. “We’re ready for the season and it’s going to be fun.”
MCGEE SHOWED HIS WORTH: JaVale McGee didn’t waste much time showing why the Mavs signed him to a three-year, $17.2 million free agent contract over the summer.
Following a missed shot on the game’s opening play, the 7-foot, 270-pound center maneuvered inside and scored on a tip-in. A short time later, McGee scored on another tip-in, then powered inside for yet another basket.
“JaVale is amazing,” assistant coach Kristi Toliver said. “His length and athleticism is something that we haven’t seen as of late, so he’s obviously a great treat coming from Phoenix.
McGee finished with 18 points, and was largely responsible for the White team being able to hold on for the victory. McGee even showed off his perimeter skills as he nailed a three-pointer in the first half.
Toliver said: “JaVale, just his lob ability, defensively using his length protecting the rim will be extremely valuable to us.”
Rookie Jaden Hardy also was impressed with McGee.
“McGee did a really good job,” Hardy said. “I feel like when he comes in, he brings a lot of energy.
“He’s a good paint protector to have and he’s a good vet to have, too, for us young guys.”
WOOD ATTACKED THE PAINT: When it comes to the Euro-step, assistant coach Jared Dudley said center Christian Wood compares somewhat to Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And Wood definitely didn’t disappoint Saturday as he finished with 17 points after joining the Mavs in a trade this summer with the Houston Rockets.
“One thing about C-Wood, back in the day when I was playing, I trained with him,” Dudley said. “He has that Giannis-esque, type Euro (step) on how long and athletic he is.
“For one, this is a great opportunity for C-Wood. Trading for him and to be able to get a player like him who can post up, who can shoot the three and drive off closeout (is great).”
Wood showed why he was sought after by the Mavs as he repeatedly kept driving to the basket and ending those plays with dunk shots. Dudley said the priority for Wood this season is: “For him, defensively, how he can get caught up in our system to play at a certain level to get him to be able to play 25-30 minutes a game.
“Offensively, I wouldn’t call him a wild card, but he’s the key for us reaching our full potential. I don’t think anyone would be shy about saying that. He has all the tools and it’s our job as a coaching staff to try to pick and choose our spots to be able to coach him to become the player we want him to become.”
GREEN WAS MONEY: Josh Green caught the eyes of a lot of Mavs coaches and fans Saturday.
Not only was Green all over the court, but just before halftime he buried a three-pointer, then made a steal and scurried up the court for a slam dunk right before the halftime buzzer.
Green, who scored 10 points Saturday, made some steady improvements last season after churning out so-so numbers during his rookie campaign in the 2020-21 season when he barely played.
“If he’s not the best in shape, he’s the closest,” assistant coach Jared Didley said. “His aggressiveness is like night and day. Even his three-point shooting shot.
“He’s catching and shooting from the wing, from the corner. He’s taking the blow and throwing the blow, offensively, to be able to get to the basket. You’ll see a huge jump from Josh Green.”
TIE? WHAT TIE?: As regulation play was winding down and the score was 83-83, coach Jason Kidd said the game would end in a tie if no one else scored.
No one else scored. But Kidd’s stance changed when the players, led by Doncic, convinced Kidd to put two more minutes on the clock after regulation ended.
“We wanted to finish it out, so that’s how it went,” rookie guard Jaden Hardy said. “We couldn’t end on a tie. Somebody had to win.”
Assistant coach Jared Dudley agreed. And so did the crowd of 7,520.
“To me, that crowd was phenomenal,” Dudley said. “I know it was Covid last year, so it was tough. I’ve been on a lot of different teams and half empty arenas, but the whole lower bowl has been sold out.
“It shows you the testament of Mavericks’ fans. They won a championship here (2011) and last year going to the Western Conference Finals, so tip your cap to Mavericks’ fans because that was a great crowd today.”
BRIEFLY: Luka Doncic led all scorers with 27 points. And he was smiling the whole time. Doncic tallied 24 of his points in the second half and overtime. He also broke an 83-83 tie in overtime when he buried three free throws after he was fouled by Theo Pinson. As the overtime period was winding down, Pinson had a chance for redemption. But his wide open three-point shot at the overtime buzzer did not connect. . .Everyone laughed when Davis Bertans sent Dorian Finney-Smith tumbling to the floor with a crossover dribble late in the second half. However, Bertans laughed when he failed to finish the play as his wide open three-pointer didn’t draw iron. . .After a slow start, Tim Hardaway Jr. hit back-to-back jumpers in the first half, then opened the second half with a trio of three-pointers in quick fashion while finishing the game with a Blue-led team-high 20 points. . .Assistant coach Kristi Toliver described Saturday’s scrimmage as a good experience for everyone involved. “The idea was did the fans have fun, and I think they did,” Toliver said. “I think our guys put on a great show for them. It was competitive. They got after it, but they kept it light and kept it fun, so it was a great time, a great Saturday. We’re just continuing to get better every day on both sides of the ball. As we continue to build our team chemistry and guys get to know one another and their communication builds, that’ll help us, I’m sure, on the defensive side of the ball. And then offensively, we have one of the best players in the world (in Doncic), so obviously we’re going to rely on him a lot. but we have great support around him. The guys have gotten better in the offseason. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody’s contribution and seeing the growth. Obviously, there’s more of a target on our back this year than there was last year. Guys are absorbing that and running with that and understanding that pressure is a privilege. There’s more pressure on us this year than there was last year and I think the guys are looking forward to that challenge.”