LAS VEGAS – While working as one of the Dallas Mavericks’ three summer league head coaches, Jared Dudley wantsHardy everyone to take a deep breath and stop judging rookie Jaden Hardy too harshly.

Hardy had a spectacular debut in the Mavs’ summer league opener against the Chicago Bulls on July 8 when he tallied 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting. But Hardy stumbled and followed that up last Monday against the Utah Jazz with just 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

On Tuesday, Hardy put up another 4-of-15 shooting display while scoring 11 points against the Phoenix Suns. And on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks, Hardy scored only seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Hardy finished summer league play with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and seven turnovers during Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. In the Mavs’ five summer league games, the 6-4, 198-pound guard averaged 15 points and was 26-of-75 from the field for 34.7 percent.

With more time to learn the little nuances of the NBA game, Dudley insists Hardy will be a much more productive player. And he expects him to become a key cog in the Mavs’ machine next season.

“He’s 19 years old,” Dudley said. “At 19, I was eating pizza at Boston College.

“This kid’s got a long ways to go, he’s got great coaches, and a staff that wants to work with him. He’s going to be tired of us as much as we want to work with him. Give this kid a couple of years and let’s see where he’s at.”

The Mavs were so enamored with Hardy that they traded their way back into last month’s NBA Draft so they could secure his services. Hardy was projected to be a first-round pick after he averaged 17.7 points last season with the NBA’s G League Ignite.

However, he surprisingly slid out of the first round and the Sacramento Kings chose Hardy with the 37th overall selection, then traded his draft rights to the Mavs for second-round picks in 2024 and 2028.

HardyAs far as his five-game performance in the summer league is concerned, Hardy said: “I feel like I did pretty good. I’m just coming in and trying to do what the coaching staff wanted me do to. Play the right way, make the right play and then really just focusing in on my defense and trying to become a better defender.”

Unlike the other summer leaguers, Hardy had the added pressure of playing in Las Vegas in front of numerous family members and friends. That’s because he attended high school in Henderson, Nev. – a suburb of Las Vegas – and was a consensus five-star high school recruit and one of the top two players in the entire country as a senior in 2021.

“It was super fun just to come back and play in front of people where I went to high school,” Hardy said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and I had a bunch of family come and just support me, so being back it was super fun.

“I didn’t look at it as pressure. I just looked at it as another opportunity to go out there and play a game that I love.”

At times during his time on the court in Vegas, everything probably was so surreal for Hardy, who turned 20 on July 5.

“I grew up watching summer league, so just being able to come back and play in it was super fun,” he said. “I’m sure it’s a moment I’m going to remember forever.”

For sure, Hardy will remember the stark differences from the G League to the summer league. Then again, he noticed so many similarities between the two.

“The biggest difference is probably just taking (your game) up to another level,” he said. “But other than that, I’ll say it’s pretty much the same. Same thing. NBA guys. NBA-level talent.”

Hardy entered summer league play with a desire to challenge himself and add something essential to his game that wasn’t there before theHardy draft. And he believes he accomplished that mission.

“What I feel like I improved on the most is becoming a better playmaker, making the right play, making the right reads, and then challenging myself defensively to be a better defender, being in the right places, being in the right spots where I’m supposed to be on defense,” Hardy said. “And playing the right way.”

With gone Jalen Brunson gone to the New York Knicks via free agency, Hardy knows there will be ample opportunities for him to work his way into the Mavs’ rotation next season. So the amount of playing time he receives lies with him and the progress he makes.

“For him, we’re going to have to work with him,” Dudley said. “It’s not going to be something overnight.”

A certified gym rat, Hardy is fully aware that extra time in the gym and in the film room are his greatest weapons if he wants to develop into the game-changing player he ultimately wants to become.

“Some goals that I have going into the offseason is being in better shape, and then really focusing on what (the Mavs) decide for me to get better at and being in the gym with the coaches,” he said. “Personally, as far as where the season goes, we want to win the championship.

“This is a team that just came from the Western Conference Finals, so we want to be right back there and compete for a championship. And I Hardywant to do whatever I need to do to help the team win.”

To that end, Hardy couldn’t help but think that the next time he dons a Mavs’ jersey during an organized practice session, he’ll be on the same court with the team’s three-time All-Star – superstar point guard Luka Doncic. That will happen when the Mavs start training camp in a little over two months.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Hardy said. “I’m sure it’s going to be fun, so I’m excited.”

In the meantime, now that the summer league is over, Hardy will dial it back a bit and get some rest and find a place to live in Dallas.

“What’s next for me is getting down to Dallas and getting me a spot,” he said. “And staying there and locking in and getting better.”

And when he looks back and analysis his experience in his first summer league, Hardy said: “I gave it my all. I just looked at it as a blessing and an opportunity.”

DUDLEY ENJOYED FIRST HEAD COACHING EXPERIENCE: Jared Dudley coached the Mavs during their games against Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers, Greg St. Jean coached the game against Chicago, and George Galanopoulos coached the games against Utah and Milwaukee.

It was the first time Dudley has been a head coach, and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I learned night and day from one series,” he said. “Keep coaching them even when you’re down.Dudley

“It doesn’t matter about the score. These guys are still trying to better themselves and their careers.”

Dudley started his coaching career last August after coach Jason Kidd hired him once Dudley retired following a 14-year career playing for seven different NBA teams. Dudley said being in the hot seat is totally different and requires much more focus than sitting on the bench one or two seats over from the head coach.

“Coaching, the best way is experience,” he said. “So I got to do that. I looked at what could I have done differently, sub-patterns, play calls of when they switch.

“When you’re an NBA player, your rookie year you’re watching film. I’m going to go back and watch film of myself, practice plans of where I can be better on my plays and on where I can be crisp.”

And when he evaluates everything, Dudley said: “It’s my first year. One day I’ll be coaching summer league and I’ll be doing it all by myself, so I’m excited.”

DudleyBRIEFLY: The Mavs finished summer league play with an 0-5 record. But since they dropped two games by a total of two points, they realize things could have been a whole lot better. “When we first came here, (coach Greg) St. Jean, his message was to be the most hard-working unselfish team,” coach Jared Dudley said. “And we definitely did that at times.” The Mavs lost their summer league opener to Chicago, 100-99, in overtime. After that, they lost to the Utah Jazz, 83-82. That was followed by losses to the Phoenix Suns (105-78), Milwaukee Bucks (100-89) and Los Angeles Lakers (95-84). Following Saturday’s game against the Lakers, Dudley said: “We told (the players) we appreciate you guys working your butt off. We had meetings, film sessions (and) no one complained. They were coachable, and that’s what they’re going to need if they’re going to want to be able to move on. Being coachable (and) working. I just thank them for their opportunity.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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