As this season was winding to a close, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. occasionally looked to his left and to his right and saw the abundance of young talent the Dallas Mavericks have at their disposal.

For Hardaway, it was almost as if he wanted to yell, “Yes We Can Make the Playoffs Next Season.” That’s how real the six-year veteran shooting guard feels about the impact the Mavs can make on the NBA come next season.

“We’re definitely on the verge of something special,” Hardaway said. “Those guys that were sitting out the last couple of games of the season, we just kept talking about that.

“We were just saying to ourselves: ‘What if, what if, what if?’ And now going into next season everybody will be healthy and it’ll be a great sight to see, and I’m sure the city of Dallas is excited just as much as we are and ready to get this thing going.”

Before the Mavs are going to “get this thing going,” Hardaway underwent surgery to address a stress injury to his left tibia that forced him to miss the final 11 games of the season. Hardaway, 27, said it was the first time he’s ever had surgery.

“Just know that I will be ready for next season,” Hardaway said. “I just know that I’ve got to make sure I take care of my body and make sure I’m healthy throughout the process and make sure I go about it the right way and not come back too quick.

“I missed being out there with the guys, most importantly. And I was playing through an injury basically the whole season. I think that just shows a lot about my character and it shows a lot about how much I care for the guys in that locker room.”

The Mavs acquired Hardaway from the New York Knicks on Jan. 31 in a blockbuster trade that also landed Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas. In 19 games with the Mavs – including 17 starts — Hardaway averaged 15.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 29.3 minutes, and also shot 40.4 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Hardaway, the 24th overall pick by the Knicks in the 2013 NBA Draft, believes his leadership will be of utmost importance to the Mavs and he’s looking forward to taking on that challenging role.

“I think I’m going to definitely be important just for how many years I’ve played in the league and knowing how to take care of your body, and how to be a true professional and how to get these guys going,” he said. “I think that’s going to be my role also moving forward is just being that vocal leader out there on the floor as well.

“Time will tell, but for now we’re going to make sure everybody is healthy and make sure we get ready for next season and make sure we build this chemistry.”

With Luka Doncic and Porzingis slated to play significant roles for the Mavs, Hardaway just wants to fit in wherever he can and offer a helping hand.

“I just want to be that guy that brings a lot of energy, brings passion to the game,” the 6-6, 205-pounder said. “I feed off the crowd, so when I feel their energy, my energy just skyrockets through the roof.

“Just playing with (Doncic and Porzingis) I’m pretty sure I won’t have to see the ball that much. At the same time, when the ball does come to me, I’ve got to make sure I make the right play and make the right decision when I’m out there, and make sure I do what I do best.”

That includes taking whatever the defense gives him.

“I know there will be some times when I’m a little bit too aggressive,” Hardaway said. “But at the same time I think we need that.

“I’m not trying to be passive out there. I’m just trying to go out there and do what I do best, and that’s play with energy and play with passion and do whatever I can to get this team some wins.”

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