There’s only so much you can take away from a preseason NBA game. Four prominent Dallas Mavericks didn’t make the trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma. That left a lot of extra minutes for head coach Jason Kidd to get a feel for some of the team’s new additions.
Each of Jaden Hardy, Christian Wood, and McKinley Wright IV excelled in their Mavericks debut. They helped Dallas notch a 98-96 win on the road against a scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder team that simply wouldn’t back down.
“When you talk about the rookie, Hardy, he made some big shots coming down the stretch,” Kidd said. “You look at Wright—McKinley—10 assists and no turnovers. That’s positive. He ran the team well for us.”
Hardy paced the Mavericks in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of the team’s final 22 points, including a 3-point shot to put Dallas up 98-91 that would seal the game. He finished with 21 points on 8-16 shooting, making 4-10 from deep. He also chipped in a rebound, assist, and a steal in almost 24 minutes.
“Once I get locked into a zone like that, it’s pretty hard to get me out of it,” Hardy said. “I’m just thinking that I’ve got it going to I’m thinking about making the right play. That’s what I’m thinking about, trying to make the right play, make the right read.”
Hardy’s play not only sealed the game, it impressed Kidd. He said that it’s a testament to his focus and the amount of work he’s doing to improve his game.
“It shows the work that he’s put in since Summer League,” Kidd said. “He spends a lot of time in the gym. He’s coming back at night. He’s working not just on the floor but watching video. He wants to be good; he wants to play; he wants to participate. You see that in tonight’s game.”
As for Wood, he came off the bench and played the most minutes of any player. In those 25 minutes, he scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He even helped get the offense going, taking the ball up court.
“I thought he did a great job of not trying to force anything,” Kidd said. “Playing inside, being able to play off the dribble and make plays for his teammates. I thought he did an incredible job being able to rebound the ball for us.
“For him to get misses and be able to clean up the boards for us and then be able to bring [the ball up court] is something that we’ve talked about. As he gets comfortable doing that, it’s going to make us so much better.”
Coming off the bench may be an adjustment for Wood still. He said that it took him a little while to get going, but he was thankful to play some extended minutes so that he could find his groove on the court.
“I was just trying to find my rhythm,” Wood said. “[Kidd] let me stay in longer. I think he knew that I was trying to get into an offensive and defensive rhythm. So, shout out to him.”
Wright may have the most to gain from a strong showing during preseason. He was brought in to fill the training camp roster and doesn’t have a long-term contract in place.
He led the team in assists with 10, did not have any turnovers, scored a tidy eight points, and had a team-best plus-minus, notching a plus-11. If he can maintain a high level of play over the next two games, he may earn himself a two-way contract.
“There’s pressure, but I had a former teammate of mine, George King, who always told me there’s no such thing as pressure if you’re prepared. So, I came into training camp prepared,” Wright said. “I played with the USA Team right before I came to Dallas for training camp, and that helped prepare me as well.
“I was prepared coming here. I don’t feel a whole lot of pressure. I’m just doing my job each and every day, doing whatever I can to try and make this roster, and provide whatever I can for this team.”