DALLAS - Before Tim Hardaway Jr. said "hello'' to the new NBA season, he took a moment in this week's training camp media visit to say "goodbye.''
"I just want to say thanks to the guys that left,'' Hardaway said of the Dallas Mavericks who were recently dealt away. "Everybody built a great relationship with them.''
After all, the Mavericks had one of the more transformative offseason's in the NBA this November, parting ways with players like Justin Jackson, Delon Wright, and Seth Curry, while moving to acquire youth, athleticism, toughness, and defense to an already dangerous offensive unit.
But then to the "hellos.''
"The new guys that came in, they're hungry,'' Hardaway Jr. said. "They're ready."
Hardaway knows something about newcomers James Johnson and Josh Richardson; those two vets have Florida bases, as Hardaway does - and they've all scrimmaged together in summers in the Miami area.
"I know this season coming up, we're focusing more on the other side of the floor (defense),'' Hardaway said. "You got to have that edge, that want, that desire to do so."
Johnson and Richardson are both known as being more than plus defenders but are also set to bring a brand of toughness to the Mavs that they sorely needed last season ... particularly in their first-round loss to the Clippers.
And that comes just in time, too, with Dallas set to face the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day in primetime in front of a national audience. ... a Lakers team that got even better and tougher themselves, thanks to the additions of big men Montrezl Harrel and Marc Gasol, as well as former Mavericks wing Wesley Matthews.
Matthews, of course, was sent to New York in February of 2019 in exchange for Hardaway and Kristaps Porzingis, in a move that set the Mavericks upon their current upward path.
"Just being able to play against the defending champs on Christmas Day, that's awesome. ... This is what you live for,'' Hardaway Jr. said. "It shows that we're up there with the elite, and we have to go out there and perform as an elite team. Everybody talks about trying to get there, and now we're finally there."
Now, the Mavs' Christmas matchup against the defending champs will indeed be Hardaway and company's chance to say "hello'' again ... maybe to true title contention.