Jaden Hardy is excited to play in Summer League. The Dallas Mavericks’ second-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is ready to showcase his skills as the NBA world looks on. Luckily, he’s already played a year of professional basketball in the G League.
While he may have a leg up on some of his competition in that regard, there will be pressure on him. Not only does he have to play to the level his coaches expect, but he’ll also face tough defenses and the media scrutiny that comes with playing in the NBA spotlight. Still, this is a moment that Hardy has been waiting for.
“What excites me is being able to play at this level,” Hardy told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s something that I always dreamed of. Growing up watching the Summer Leagues, I always pictured myself being out there. So, now that I’m out there, I want to come out and prove to everybody who I am.”
Before he hits the court, though, the Mavericks want to instill a foundational work ethic in Hardy that helps him build for the future. Summer League head coach Greg St. Jean has been preaching the importance of building strong habits—as well as offensive and defensive schemes—during the first two days of practice to get players like Hardy ready.
“He’s eager to learn,” St. Jean told reporters. “He’s extremely present when you are coaching him. He’s giving eye contact, nodding his head, acknowledging what you’re saying. So, we’re really excited to work with him. I think we’re trying to find the balance between that for him. At the end of the day, he’s excited. He wants to be here and learn and get extra work in. We’re just trying to help teach him how to be a pro.”
It seems to be working. Hardy is already developing good habits. He is staying after practice to get in more reps, working on new skills with the coaches and soaking up everything he can.
“The process has been really good,” Hardy said. “I feel like I’ve been responding to it really well and just wanting to learn really. I want to learn. I want to get better. I want the guys just to pour it all on me like, ‘Give me the knowledge.’ It’s been fun, though. I’ve been staying after practices working on things they want me to work on.”
After a rigorous first day that focused on defense, he stayed late and worked on finishing, ball handling, picks-and-roll schemes and relocations, St. Jean and Hardy say. Hardy is also working on his shot and improving his overall consistency. The extra effort will help the coaches build around his abilities.
“For us right now, it’s putting him in situations to be successful as well as to challenge him. Healthy exposure I think is a good phrase. Putting him in those situations can also help him see and feel those things that he needs to get better.”
For Hardy, Summer League has a little more importance than just being a big stage. He grew up watching the competition at the Thomas & Mack Center, having gone to high school outside of Las Vegas and he will have plenty of friends and family in the stands cheering him on.
“I went to Summer League every year—every Summer League since I moved to Vegas,” Hardy said. “It’s been fun. Now, I get to go out and play in front of my home, friends, stuff like that. It’s going to be fun.”
It’s not just his friends and family that are motivating him. He remembers how far he fell on draft night. He’s happy to be on the Mavericks but being selected in the second-round gives him some extra motivation to show out on a stage he’s been waiting to play on since he was young.
“I’m coming out with a chip on my shoulder,” Hardy said. “I feel like there’s a lot from me that I want to prove out there. I’m coming with a chip on my shoulder.”