Last season, Tim Hardaway Jr.’s role with the Dallas Mavericks was in flux. He was a starter until he wasn’t. Then he was again. Former head coach Rick Carlisle tinkered with the lineups to get the most out of his rotation.
To his credit, Hardaway took it all in stride. Now, Carlisle is gone, and a new coaching staff in place. With it, Hardaway’s role is clearly defined. He is a starter because he says he’s a starter.
“He made the decision, I only asked him the question,” head coach Jason Kidd said with a smile.
“You can see that he’s comfortable doing either,” Kidd continued. “I wanted to make sure that he was comfortable and if he wanted to start or if he wanted to come off the bench.”
Since being traded to Dallas, Hardaway has started 106 of the 160 regular season games he’s played with the Mavericks. Last season, he saw his most productive minutes as a starter. But it’s more than just scoring efficiency and role stability that starting provides for Hardaway.
“It’s better for me mentally, but with that being said, it’s all the same,” Hardaway said. “It’s the same intensity, same mindset, same passion that I bring each and every day. Like I said before in previous years, I’m willing to do what the team needs me to do. But I do think I deserve this spot, and I think I showed it last year.”
Through two preseason starts, Hardaway is averaging 6.5 points, three rebounds, and three assists. His shooting numbers haven’t been what they’ve been in recent years—just 33 percent overall as well as on three-pointers—but Kidd doesn’t put much stock in preseason numbers.
Hardaway isn’t just focusing on the offensive side of the ball. There’s an emphasis on defense this year, like most seasons. The new coaching staff is looking to tweak what it does to improve. That means more responsibility for Hardaway. It’s something that he is embracing.
Hardaway credits former assistant coach Jamahl Mosley for helping him cultivate a defensive mentality, but he expects to take it a step further with all the new faces on the bench.
“I think this coaching staff is going to help me get into a better mindset, I feel like,” Hardaway said. “With that being said, it’s all about wanting it. I do half the battle with taking charges and stuff like that. I think all that will carry over.”
Dallas opens the regular season on October 21 on the road against the Atlanta Hawks. Hardaway will start that game because that’s the role he’s chosen for himself. But with the regular season starting in less than 10 days, he knows that he and his teammates must remain focused on their training camp values.
“Continue to harp on our two things that we’re going by and that’s being accountable and communicating,” Hardaway said. “I think if we stay locked in on those two things, everything else will take care of itself.”