FRISCO – Jason Kidd’s model of coaching to this point in training camp has centered around communication. And he didn’t differ from that when it came down to deciding Tim Hardaway jr.’s role ahead of the 2021-22 NBA regular season.
Instead of simply looking at training position battles and deciding on who starts behind the closed doors of a coach’s office, Kidd asked him. And from that conversation, Kidd let Hardaway decide his role as a starter on the Dallas Mavericks for himself.
“He made the decision,” Kidd said on Monday. “When you look at Tim, he’s a true pro. He knows how to play the game, and he’s been around the game for a long time. To ask him if he wanted to start was something I knew he was comfortable doing either. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable if he wanted to start or come off the bench.”
To say Hardaway was comfortable doing either last season is an understatement. As a starter last season, Hardaway averaged 18.6 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three.
When coming off the bench, Hardaway’s point per game average dropped to 15.1, while his shooting percentages dipped across the board as well. Statistically speaking, there was a clear role Hardaway preferred. That role? Getting shots up with the first team in games.
So, when Kidd approached Hardway asking if he’d prefer to start or come off the bench, the answer was simple – start. And Hardaway believes he’s earned every right to do so.
“I deserve the spot,” Hardaway said. “I think I showed it last year.”
However, regardless of Hardaway’s clearer role on the team, he still wants everyone to know that his mentality, as a teammate, has not changed. In his mind, the only goal is doing everything the team needs him to do to win basketball games.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I am willing to do that,” Hardaway said. “It’s all the same. It is going to be the same intensity, mindset and passion that I bring each day.”
As a known starter, Kidd acknowledges Hardaway’s propensity to score the ball at a high level. But what he needs Hardaway to do more of is defend at the same rate he looks to score.
In fact, Kidd believes if Hardaway commits himself to the defensive end, he should be an All-Star level player this season.
“We are asking him to play defense too,” Kidd said. “We are trying to show him the things that can help him be better at that position. And if he can do those things, I think he can be talked about as an All-Star in this league.”
And for the Mavericks, the good news is that Hardaway appears more committed to defending as he moves into his starting role.
“It’s not just one on one, it’s team concept stuff,” Kidd said. “He’s done a great job so far with that.”
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Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.