The Dallas Mavericks got brought back to earth in game one of the team’s West Coast road trip.
Nothing went right Tuesday night. Dallas lost to the Golden State Warriors 130-92. Kristaps Porzingis punted the ball into the stands, resulting in an immediate ejection. But worst of all, Tim Hardaway Jr. fractured his fifth metatarsal bone in his foot — an injury that carries an average of 10 weeks out of action.
“I don’t know if we can make up for Timmy being out,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “But it’s going to have to be the next-man-up mentality.”
Hardaway’s injury may result in him missing the rest of the regular season. He’s just the latest player to suffer from the dreaded fifth metatarsal injury. The others on that list for this season: Slovenia’s Vlatko Čančar (Denver) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans).
Williamson hasn’t played all season after suffering his injury in the summer of 2021. And if Williamson’s injury is any indication of where things could go, Hardaway won’t be back anytime soon.
“It’s sad,” Kidd said. “The next step is for him to do what he has to do to get that [injury] fixed.”
Porzingis, who played with Hardaway since New York, spoke to him after the game and found the Mavericks’ shooting guard in good spirits.
Hardaway was asking teammates who suffered from similar injuries the best course of treatment for his foot fracture, Porzingis said.
“He’s a big leader for us,” Porzingis added. “Hopefully, he can be around the team and coming to games and still being vocal… I am excited for the guys that get an opportunity now.”
Good spirits — or not — Hardaway’s injury is still a huge blow to a team that was finding its footing.
What Hardaway’s injury means going forward
It almost feels cruel. For the first time this season, Dallas was healthy.
Heading into Tuesday night, Dallas won 11 games in 13 tries. The team looked every bit as ferocious on the defensive end. And Luka Doncic appeared to be rounding into the best shape he’s been in all season.
How quickly things change.
Dallas needs to find a replacement for 14 points per game, and the picking is slim when analyzing the roster.
Kidd spoke of Theo Pinson, Frank Ntilikina, and the sorts. None of those names strike fear in teams at the top of the Western Conference.
And if Hardaway misses the rest of this season, there is no way end-of-the-bench role players are getting extended runs in the NBA playoffs.
Dallas will need an upgrade. But the front office won’t have much time to find it with the trade deadline approaching (Feb. 10, 2022). So, for the time being, it’s the next man up.
How long that will last is to be determined.
“He was down at first I could tell, but I talked to him and he looks to be in better spirits,” Porzingis said of Hardaway. “He’s eager to get to work. We hope to get him back as soon as possible.”
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Feature image via Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.