September 25, 2022

Mavericks summer league coach Greg St. Jean gets the first chance to develop good habits and vibes with second-round pick Jaden Hardy.

As Jason Kidd’s assistant, St. Jean is in his second season coaching the Mavericks summer league team which opens play Friday in Las Vegas.

And when summer practice opened, he wanted to make sure the Mavericks weren’t “feeding him with a fire hose.”

To that, Hardy says: Spray as much as you want.

The 6-4 goaltender stood out in the first two days of summer practices. On Wednesday, he had a good session, chatted with members of the media, then flew to Las Vegas ahead of the Mavericks to attend the rookie orientation program.

The rest of the Mavericks will fly to Las Vegas on Thursday and open the league Friday against Chicago at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Hardy, who celebrated his 20th birthdaye birthday Tuesday, will be the most-watched Maverick at the start of the summer games. He knows that showing up in Las Vegas can get the attention of everyone in the NBA.

He knows this because Hardy played in virtually every NBA summer league growing up near Las Vegas.

And the desire to show his stuff is also why he wanted the coaches to bring as much knowledge as possible early in the process.

“I want to learn,” Hardy said. “I want them to dump it all on me. Just give me the knowledge. It was funny. Different finishes, ball handling, handling screens.

“Being able to play at this level is something I’ve always dreamed of. Growing up and watching the summer league, I always imagined myself being there. Now that I’m there, I want to prove to everyone who I am.

Who he is is a gifted athlete with a lot of natural skills. But that’s only half the battle, as St. Jean said. Giving Hardy a solid base to build on is one of the main goals of the summer league.

Hardy didn’t play college basketball, opting to go to the G-League Ignite to play last season, where he excelled, especially later in the season.

Now he is embarking on an NBA career full of potential.

“For us right now, it’s about putting him in situations to be successful, as well as challenging him,” St. Jean said. “Healthy exposure, I think, is a good expression – put him in those situations so we can help him see and feel the things he needs to (better).

“When it comes to intangibles, some guys naturally have them. He’s someone who has a few little things he can do that can come in and have an immediate impact on a game. But then there will be things that we have to keep improving and slowing down the game for him. He speeds up the game because of his athleticism, because of that we have to help slow him down.

“We’re not trying to blame him too much.”

Hardy celebrated his birthday by going out to dinner with Moses Wright, the sophomore forward who is expected to be on the summer team with Hardy.

“He took care of me,” Hardy said, meaning the one-season NBA veteran picked up the check.

Hardy is not strange to receive a lot of information in a short time. Going from high school to the G-League was a similar transition.

It helped, he said, that former NBA player and Skyline High School product CJ Miles was with the G-League Ignite team for part of the season.

“CJ was my guy,” Hardy said. “He was with us for a short time, but when he was there he would come to me and I was a sponge. He would talk to me about taking care of my body, doing lots of reps after practice. I learned a lot from CJ”

Hardy will have a large squad with him during the summer league. “A group” of family and friends, he said, will represent Mavericks games.

And he’ll have Wright with him. The 6-8 Wright said he’s been a big Hardy fan since a G-League game last season when Wright played for Agua Caliente.

“He gave us almost 30-26, I think,” Wright said. “I was like, fuck, this young guy is nice.”

Said Hardy: “I remember that game. We were talking about it yesterday while going out to dinner. I remember one game, I went to the middle and he was like, ‘Why didn’t you dunk that?’ He (Wright) was there too. He said I could have dunked it on him. I don’t know why I didn’t. But I already knew who Moses was.

Starting Friday, people will learn who Jaden Hardy is. And he can’t wait.

Twitter: @ESefko