As the October 25 season opener nears, the Dallas Mavericks are still figuring out who will start alongside Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. With rookie Dereck Lively II and Grant Williams presumably being the other two starters, this leaves one spot in the starting lineup with a big question mark.
There’s no doubt that last season left a sour taste in the mouths of the entire Mavericks organization. After game 81 of 82, coach Jason Kidd told the media that after the Mavericks lost to the Chicago Bulls, "a lot of people won’t be back,” referring to making roster changes in the offseason. The Mavericks did just that, making several moves this summer.
The Mavericks were active during draft night, trading down two spots to select Lively II at 12 while sending Dāvis Bertāns to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This trade created a $17 million trade exception that the Mavericks then used to acquire Richaun Holmes and Olivier-Maxence Prosper.
The Mavericks kept trying to improve their roster on draft night. Following the draft, NBA Insider Marc Stein stated during The Saturday Stein Line on 97.1 The Freak, that the Mavericks offered the Phoenix Suns a deal that would have sent Tim Hardaway Jr., Holmes, and JaVale McGee to Phoenix in return for Deandre Ayton. As we know, Phoenix rejected the offer.
It’s no secret the Mavericks have too many guards on the team as currently constructed. So, where does this leave Hardaway in the rotation?
During Marc Stein’s interview with Kidd on The Saturday Stein Line six days before training camp, Kidd stated, “I’m excited for Timmy, I’m looking to talk to him about being Sixth Man of the Year. That would help our team, put us in a really good seat if he's up for Sixth Man of the Year.”
It was no secret to Hardaway that he was involved in trade discussions this summer. He stated on Media Day, “I didn’t know if I was going to be here if I’m going to be honest with you.” He was then asked about Kidd’s comments to Stein regarding his role and responded with “You guys heard it first from him. I’m a hybrid, I guess, at this point in my career.”
This elicited a concerned response from fans, recalling a similar situation that happened just last season when Christian Wood seemingly found out he wouldn’t be starting for the Mavericks during a Media Day interview.
Well, no problem, right? There’s still time for them to have that discussion before the season starts, right? Fast forward to earlier this week, Hardaway told the media after practice that he and Kidd still hadn’t had that discussion.
This led to more concerns from MFFLs across social media about Hardaway’s relationship with Kidd. Granted, a conversation should be had between the two to clear the air on what is expected of Hardaway, but is this something to be concerned about as a Mavericks fan?
In a 2021 interview on The Old Man and The Three podcast with JJ Redick, Hardaway talked about coming off the bench for the Mavericks. He expressed that when he checks into games, it’s his time to put his foot on the gas to keep the spark going when the starters are on the bench. He's started in 171 of his 273 games as a Maverick, so it’s safe to say that Hardaway will do whatever he’s asked to win.
No matter where Hardaway falls in the rotation, he will give his all on the floor. He was vital for the Mavericks last season as his high-volume shooting led to the Mavericks being a top three-point shooting team, and they were 1-10 in games he missed.
Hardaway high energy and lights-out shooting has made him a fan-favorite during his Mavericks tenure. It’ll be interesting to see how the Mavericks’ rotation pans out this season and how he will be part of it. In the meantime, let’s get excited to watch a team that hasn’t played in six months and enjoy Mavericks basketball being back.