Tim Hardaway Jr.’s role with the Dallas Mavericks has shifted a bit, since the team acquired Kyrie Irving last month. The Mavericks landed Irving in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, where they sent Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a first-round pick, and multiple seconds to Nets in exchange for the All-Star.
Hardaway Jr., who has been a consistent scoring option in his four seasons with the Mavs, discussed how his role has changed since Dallas landed Uncle Drew.
“You’re not going to get that many plays run for you when you play with All-Stars and those type of caliber of guys. So you got to find ways to get yourself involved in the game, whether it’s rebounding, taking a charge, coming off a pick and roll, or get yourself a throw-ahead pass early in the shot clock, try to attack and make something happen,” Hardaway Jr. told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Afseth after Dallas’ 130-126 loss to the Phoenix Suns. “That’s just what I’ve been trying to do these last couple games, and I think it’s been working out great for us, not only myself but for C Wood [Christian Wood] and a lot of guys.”
Irving made his Mavs debut on February 8 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Since then, Hardaway Jr. has seen his shot totals drop by nearly two per game.
Prior to Irving’s arrival, THJ was averaging 12.2 shot attempts per game. In the games after, he’s down to just 10.6 each time.
However, the addition of the star guard has seemingly made things easier for the 30-year-old. Both his points per game (15.5 compared to 13.8) and shooting splits (37.5/35.1 vs. 47.1/51.7) have improved since the trade.
Kyrie Irving Urges Mavs Teammates to Have ‘Team-First’ Mentality
Irving had 30 points in Sunday’s loss to the Suns. He looked comfortable out on the floor with his still new-ish teammates against Phoenix, but still believes the team has some room to grow.
He told reporters after the game that he wants to see more of a “team-first” mentality from his some of the other Mavericks.
“Just not losing the leads, or kind of coming in and not having a team-first mentality,” he said via Afseth. “Guys are coming off the bench and want to come in and show their talent, obviously put points on the board. But I think we’re just easing into and just knowing that if we continue to play at a high pace, everybody’s going to get their shots.”
He then shared some examples of ways for his teammates to contribute without scoring.
“Just continuing to have that next-play mentality. If you don’t get it that one play, do something for your teammate in order to get him a better shot or put yourself in position. It’s just one of those times throughout the season, especially where we are after the trade, where our units are figuring each other out. And when we do, we’ll be good.”
Kevin Durant Discusses Facing Kyrie Irving and the Mavs
Sunday’s primetime matchup saw the first meeting between Irving and his former Nets teammate Kevin Durant.
Durant led his Suns to the victory, scoring a game-high 37 points in Dallas.
He later explained to the media that the matchup with Kyrie was “just another game.”
“No emotions at all. It’s another game. Like I told somebody earlier, most of my career, I played against Kyrie,” he said via AZ Central’s Duane Rankin. So, he was on my team for the last couple of years, but the majority of my career I played against him, so I know how that feels. I just think that we both were locked in on the floor. We want to go out there and be the best that we can be. Sometimes you get distracted from hanging out, talking, and catching up on old times with your friends. So we were both locked in and I’m glad we got the W.”