Jaden Hardy hasn’t had many opportunities to prove himself in the NBA. At least not yet. The Dallas Mavericks rookie guard has spent much of his time in the G League with the Texas Legends, where he’s been dominant.
That dominance hasn’t translated to the next level. Hardy’s playing time has been erratic, and his shot doesn’t always cooperate when he does play. However, he’s shown flashes of brilliance, the latest coming late in a 124-95 loss to the Boston Celtics when he let loose and carved up Boston’s starters.
“It felt good to get out there on the floor,” Hardy told the media after the game. “I had an opportunity to go out there to show what I can do, so it felt good to be out there and playing.”
Hardy checked in with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter, with the Mavericks trailing 81-59. Over the next 15 minutes, Hardy poured in 15 points, making five of his eight shots, including all three of his 3-point attempts. He also grabbed two rebounds, had two assists and had zero turnovers.
“I think he’s got a lot of boogie to his game,” teammate Spencer Dinwiddie said. “He is one of the guys that can really be dynamic in terms of offensively and in the paint. It was nice seeing him out there in that time and going for it. And obviously, as a vet, [I’m] encouraging him to keep going.”
It wasn’t just teammates that took notice of his performance. His head coach, who often provides cryptic responses to questions from reporters, made his feelings about Hardy’s play very clear after the game.
“I thought he was great,” Jason Kidd said. “I thought his energy – he played the right way. I have to give him a lot of credit. I thought the group that was out there at the end played the right way. The ball moved, but Hardy was really good, really good.”
This was Hardy’s twelfth appearance with the Mavericks this season and the second-most minutes he’s logged on the court. His 15 points tied his career high. He previously had 15 against the Chicago Bulls on December 10, 2022, when he also played the most minutes of his career.
Hardy is averaging 4.7 points and 1.1 rebounds in 7.8 minutes per game this season. He’s shooting 38.5% on field goals overall and knocking down 27.8% of his attempts from behind the 3-point arc.
Even though his on-court time has been sporadic, it isn’t hard for Hardy to motivate himself to work on his game. The self-identified gym rat spends a lot of extra hours in the “lab,” watching game film and working to develop skills that will help him adjust and adapt to the speed of the NBA.
“Really just continuing to work,” Hardy says about staying ready. “Going in there, staying late at night in the gym and early in the mornings and just working on my game and staying confident in my abilities. Never have I once doubted myself or thought I wasn’t good enough.
“I continue to stay humble, continue to stay in the gym, put in work and listen to the players that are already ahead of me and learn from them. That’s really what it is.”
Fans are undoubtedly excited about Hardy’s potential, and his efficient 15-point outburst against the Celtics Thursday night will surely leave them frothing for more. When he gets his next chance is in the hands of his coach rather than the fans, however. Still, Hardy says he’ll embrace every opportunity.
“I feel like staying humble and staying confident in myself, and I feel like when those opportunities come, I’m ready,” Hardy said. “I’m not doubting myself when I get out there. I’m just taking my time when I get out there and seeing everything.”