Truth be known, every NBA player wants to be a starter.
Coming off the bench isn’t what anybody dreams about, although it beats not being in the league at all.
And starting is something that can only happen for roughly one-third of the 500 or so NBA players.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson have both started a lot of games in the NBA. And both will start more before their careers are done.
But right now, when the Mavericks are finally developing some momentum with four wins in a row, both players are coming off the bench.
It’s been a good formula for coach Rick Carlisle, but it would have no chance of success if Hardaway and Brunson weren’t embracing the situation.
“I know I’m a starter in this league,” Hardaway said Saturday. “But coach came up to me and made it clear. And at this point, it would be selfish of me to even think about myself and say: no, I want to start.
“(Instead), let’s do whatever we have to do to go out and win ballgames. I’m here to win. If I have to come off the bench for him and be that sparkplug like I’ve been doing, I’m going to continue to do that. It’s been working.”
As the saying goes, winning is the best deodorant. It makes everything tolerable.
And it’s hard to argue with the results. Hardaway has come off the bench nine times this season.
The Mavericks are 7-2.
In those games, Hardaway has averaged 17.7 points in 27.5 minutes per game. He’s shot better than 46 percent from 3-point range.
In his 17 starts, he averaged 16.4 points in 32.4 minutes. He also shot under 36 percent from 3-point range.
And, mostly, his willingness to sacrifice is what this team needs.
“Tim Hardaway is an NBA starter,” Carlisle said. “The way I view it is we have a starting six. We’re just very fortunate that he is more than willing to come off the bench, if it’s the right thing for the team, which we believe it is.
“His spirit about this has been tremendously positive and uplifting ever since I talked to him about it. It takes a special person to put the team first and be willing to do this.”
As far as Brunson is concerned, he’s five years behind Hardaway in the experience category. But he’s started 60 of the 153 games he’s played for the Mavericks.
This year, he’s having his most productive season and he’s doing so as a major cog off the bench. In seven February outings, he’s averaging 12.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 23 minutes per game.
He and Hardaway have been coming into the game mostly as a package deal. They have been working well together.
“We have a tremendous amount of belief and confidence in him, really in all areas,” Carlisle said of Brunson. “That was one of the reasons we were willing to trade Delon Wright.
“We felt he (Brunson) had a great grasp of what we’re trying to do on both sides of the ball. He can make plays. He can score. And I really feel in today’s game, your point guards have to be a real threat to score. If not, teams are going to load up and back off and not guard him and stuff like that. It’s really important that he’s the kind of player that can be aggressive, score and still have a great feel for getting the others involved.”
Quote of the day: Rick Carlisle likes winning and four victories in a row is always a good thing.
But he said on Saturday that this is also an important juncture for the Mavericks where they will show their true colors.
“This is just one of those years where we’ve been up against it from the beginning. We continue to be up against it. But that’s OK. What are we made of? Are we going to be able to fight through? Can we not allow four consecutive wins to erode our desire to keep going and move forward and take this season to a higher level.? That’s where we are.”
Defense, defense, defense: While the Mavericks had a franchise-best offensive night Friday against New Orleans with 25 3-pointers made, the defense left plenty to be desired.
The Pelicans scored 130 points and Carlisle put the Mavericks through a lengthy film session on Saturday.
“I took the team through 10 clips that were just below what we have to have as our standard,” he said. “And when you’re scoring at a high rate, it’s easy to get into a shot-trading mentality – you know, brother-in-law basketball – your turn, my turn. But ultimately, that’s a losing formula. So we just got to keep making the appeal.”
Briefly: The Mavericks went through the process of trading teams for two-way rookie Nate Hinton, moving him from the Long Island Nets to the Santa Cruz Warriors as the G-League plays in the Orlando bubble . . . Tyrell Terry is with the Memphis Hustle and Tyler Bey now plays for the Salt Lake Stars . . . The Mavericks have another early start time on Sunday (6:30 p.m.).