Hardy produced a career-high-tying 15 points, two rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes of work in the 124-95 loss at home to the Boston Celtics. He shot 5-of-8 from the field and made all three of his 3-point attempts off of the bench.
With the Mavericks down 22 points late in the third quarter, head coach Jason Kidd opted to make a change and inserted Hardy into the game. He promptly hit a 3-pointer in the quarter and then added 12 points while playing all 12 minutes in the final period.
“He was great. He played the right way,” Kidd said. “You gotta give him a lot of credit. I thought that group that was out there at the end played the right way. The ball moved but Hardy was really good.”
In 15 minutes, Jaden Hardy tied his career-high for scoring in a game with 15 points.
-Knocked down a corner 3 after a Luka Doncic spray-out.
-Aggressive in attacking the rim both in the half-court and in transition.
-Cleared impressive separation on his step-back 3. pic.twitter.com/wiXVPaW3eK
— Grant Afseth (@GrantAfseth) January 6, 2023
The appearance was only the 12th of the season by Hardy as the 37th pick has mostly been buried on the bench. He has spent much of the season in the G League with the Texas Legends, and has flourished with that group.
Hardy is averaging 28.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists on 49% shooting from 3-point range in 11 games with the Legends. He is third in the G League in scoring among all players and is one of 12 players with at least one 40-point game.
With some playing time with Texas, Hardy is staying ready for the opportunity to play. That time is helping him stay sharp on the court, which paid off on Thursday.
“I just continue to work,” Hardy said. “Going in, staying late at nights in the gym and going in early in the morning and just working on my game and staying confident in my abilities. I never once doubted myself or felt like I wasn’t good enough so I just continue to stay humble and stay in the gym and put in work.”
Things could begin to change for Hardy, though.
The Mavericks on Friday released 12-year veteran Kemba Walker, whose contract would have become guaranteed for the rest of the season on Saturday. According to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, citing a team source, the development of Hardy played a factor in the decision to waive Walker.
Walker, who was signed on Nov. 28, played in nine games, averaging eight points, 2.1 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 16 minutes. The departure of Walker could clear up some minutes for Hardy and guard McKinley Wright IV moving forward.
Not playing for Hardy has been a difficult adjustment. He had started at every level up until this point, but is making the best of the situation and could find himself playing meaningful minutes.
“It is different because I’ve never been in a position like this so it’s my first time actually going through something like this,” Hardy said. “(I’m) just staying the course. It is a marathon so (I’m) just continuing to put in the work and I feel like everything will fall into place.”