DALLAS - Tim Hardaway Jr. had given every indication that he was strongly leaning toward the opt-in that would continue his blossoming career with the Dallas Mavericks. That's exactly what has happened now, with Hardaway Jr. officially opting into his $19 million player option for the 2020-2021 NBA season.
The Mavs had always given the same indication that Hardaway Jr. would be back, starting with owner Mark Cuban recently telling DBcom that both parties would like to stick together to create a longer-term deal, and GM Donnie Nelson this week issuing to DBcom a glowing profile of the club's third-leading scorer (at almost 16 points per) from a year ago.
"Hardaway is a critical piece to our success,'' Donnie told us. "He's a perfect fit in every way.''
The fit is about "family'' (Donnie talked at length about how Tim Sr. once played for the Nelsons and also talked about the Mavs' relationship with Hardaway's agent) and it's about on the court.
"Start with the integrity, what he brings, in the locker room,'' Donnie said. "He and Luka are a really potent 1-2 punch out there.''
For the Mavs, that "1-2 punch'' is an attractive one - maybe especially to Hardaway, who came here in the blockbuster Kristaps Porzingis trade with the Knicks.
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"We felt it was just a perfect fit for us,'' said Donnie, insisting that Hardaway's presence in the deal wasn't just about salary ballast. "We know he fell upon some difficult times in New York, they were restructuring things ...
"But when we made the trade, we thought, 'Here's a guy who can play the 2 or 3, he's a conscientious defender ... He just needed to play with a point guard who can get him the ball where he wants it and get it to him in his rhythm. ... Luka is an open jump shot waiting to happen.''
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There are no guarantees going forward regarding job security. The Mavs think of themselves as "go-for-it'' contenders. ... "untouchables'' here are few. But, said Nelson of Hardaway, "He's a big part of what we're doing moving forward.''