Tim Hardaway Jr’s reason for returning to the Dallas Mavericks is a simple one.
He sees what this team has at its core, and he believes that together they are capable of competing at an extremely high level. And because of that, he doesn’t want to be on the outside looking in with Dallas aiming to compete for a championship in the coming seasons.
“Everything starts with the foundation,” Hardaway said at his introductory press conference Friday morning. “With the guys that’s been here for the last couple of years now, I really feel like we have that core group of guys that can get the job done. I didn’t want to be left out.”
Hardaway may feel as though competing for a championship with this group is the end goal. However, Dallas still stands a long way from seeing that goal achieved.
With three new additions to the team: Reggie Bullock, Moses Brown, and Sterling Brown curating chemistry and finding consistency are paramount. And that doesn’t just go on the offensive end of the floor – it serves the defensive side of the ball as well.
Throughout the 2020-21 season, the Mavericks ranked 21st in defensive rating (112.3) and eighth in offensive rating (114.6). In bringing back Hardaway as well as bringing in versatile wing shooters alongside a rebounder, Dallas believes it now has the right role players surrounding Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porzingis.
This group is a collection of guys that can make open shots while having the dexterity to defend multiple positions on the floor. And specifically, in trading for Moses Brown, Dallas squashed its rebounding issue that plagued the team last season.
Kidd’s commitment to defense:
With new head coach Jason Kidd wanting to play more defense and run an up-tempo offense, Dallas may boast a roster that finally fits what its coach wants to run.
Now, Kidd sees getting this group of players to buy into defense and rebounding as a means to reaching the goal of contention sooner rather than later for the Mavericks.
“We all know we can put the ball in the basket, but when you look at the little things: rebounding and being able to play a little bit better defense. If we can apply our energy to that, that is going to put us in a different tier,” Kidd said. “When you look at these guys, they are going to help us get there.”
Hardaway sees things similarly, he said. He knows what this group of players is capable of, but he is also aware that everything starts with the commitment to trust one another and lead by action.
“Moving forward, I really feel like we just play hard on both ends of the ball. And making sure we get to that postseason,” Hardaway said. “I could tell you all this stuff, but we have to go out there and do it.”
Competing at a high level nightly won’t be easy, but it is something Hardaway has already proven himself committed to. Hardaway also noted that his commitment to winning in Dallas spans back to his first season in a Mavericks uniform when he was traded alongside Porzingis.
“I really felt like this was a place for me to really flourish and find my niche,” Hardaway said. “After that, moving forward, I felt like I was part of something special. All the way up to now, I feel like this is home.”
Returning for Hardaway was a no-brainer:
Working in Dallas and Hardaway’s favor is the familiar feeling of continuity as the team looks towards training camp. Regardless of the new coach and general manager, Hardaway claims that everything in Dallas feels similar.
“Obviously we added pieces, but we still have our core,” he said. “The only difference is the front office, and we added some old faces that have been a part of the organization. They are the ones that brought a championship to this city, and that is very important.
“They know what it takes. We just got to learn from them.”
There is a lot of good in the air surrounding Hardaway’s return to Dallas.
The only goal is competing at a championship level, and Hardaway appears confident in his teammates and his connections to help get the job done for the Mavericks.
“My agent made sure we got a deal done here, that I could stay here and continue my work here,” Hardaway said of his free-agent decision. “[I’ll] continue to give the city of Dallas all my passion and all my playing ability and skills.
“It was a no-brainer for me to come back here.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.