Dallas Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. on third-best player debate: “I just want to win.”

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Tim Hardaway Jr. is not concerned about who’s the Dallas Mavericks’ third-best option: “At this point, I just want to win. I don’t care.”

All season long fans, media and others have debated who is the Dallas Mavericks‘ third-best player behind Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry, even Dorian Finney-Smith have all been inserted into the best third option conversation at some point this season, and with the league gearing up for a season restart later this month, the conversation looks to resurface.

However, there’s one person who won’t be taking part in the debate: Hardaway Jr.

“At this point, I just want to win. I don’t care,” Hardaway said. “I’m just trying to go out there and produce as best I can, do my job and control what I control out there on the floor. Everybody forgets Seth started the season for us, and he did an amazing job.

“So it  doesn’t matter if I’m the third or the fourth or if when one of those guys are out and I’m the first or second, I’m just out here trying to do the best I can to make everybody’s job a lot easier.”

Hardaway, talking to media during a Zoom media session Monday afternoon, initially said he was still up in the air but quickly emphasized his confidence in the NBA and the players union and its collective efforts to restart the season despite the rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida. The Dallas Mavericks leave for Orlando on Wednesday and upon arrival will quarantine for several days per NBA protocol.

“I love the game of basketball so I don’t care where it’s being played or the circumstances. Whenever you have the chance to do the one thing that you love, just go for it,” said Hardaway, the team’s third-highest scorer with an average of 15.8 points per game.

“I think the NBA and the NBPA and everyone involved with the season restarting in Orlando, I think they’ve done an amazing job of making sure that our lives are safe and that everyone is safe when they get into the bubble,” he said. “Just hearing them out and listening to what they have to say, I’m really really confident.”

Hardaway said the Dallas Mavericks players “are following the rules and staying safe and most  importantly they’ are still getting their workout in and making sure they’re ready to go when we get to Orlando.”

Hardaway also gave insight into his mental state after the almost four-month hiatus, how the teammates communicated during the pandemic and advice for the younger players who will experience their first playoff atmosphere.

On his mental state of mind:

“First and foremost, everyone still has to understand that we have to be safe during these tough times, whether it’s staying in the house, staying away from peers. Just sacrificing everything to make sure you’re safe and your family is safe is definitely most important.

“I think these last four months it’s been a reality check. Back at home it was great weather for and I was able to get some workouts in around the neighborhood and stay in good shape,” he said. “I just tried to stay patient. You can only control what you can control at this point.”

On his breakout season and production this year:

“I think it’s just reminiscent of my time in Atlanta. It was a very similar situation with the star power that we had on the floor with Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Dennis Schroder, Kyle Korver, all those guys.

“It’s just me trying to go out there and play my role and do the best I can at it. Like I said I”m just trying to do whatever I can to make two guys on our team lives as easy as possible out there on the floor. KP and Luka, Luka and KP however you want to put  it, once I’m in a system and know my role and what I have to do, it makes my job and everybody’s job a whole lot easier.”

On challenges of being away from Dallas Mavericks teammates for so long:

“We did a lot of Zoom calling, a lot of Instagram DMs for the guys who went back home and just whether they are posting, how they’re doing, how they’re staying in shape,” he said. “Dwight  Powell and a lot of guys reached out to me so see how I was doing. Coach Carlisle, all the assistant coaches did the same. Everyone was doing an amazing job trying to say in communication with one another and making sure we’re all in this together whether we’re in the same city, state or not.

“It felt like summer a little bit, like a real offseason summer just being away from the guys. But all in all, we did a great job of communicating during these months.”

On using the restart as a platform for racial justice: 

“I think a team will have to make sure we are all on the same page to see what we will do once we get to Orlando. First and foremost I’m happy that the season is restarting and it’s happening at this time so we can use our platform to express ourselves and that’s what being an athlete and playing on one of the biggest stages is all about.

“I’m happy we’re going to be doing that as a team. I’m pretty sure we’ll talk about that as the days go on but for now, I’m happy that we’ll start  the season at this time and make sure  we use that platform to get our voices heard.”

On regaining the shooting momentum he showed before the season stoppage: 

“In my eyes, everybody is zero, zero at this point. Everyone has been sitting out and no one really playing a lot of basketball leading up to this point after the season was over,” he said. “I think everybody is in the same boat. It may take a couple of games. It may not take a couple of games. I know I’ve been getting a lot of reps in and making sure I stayed in the gym as much as I could. Just tried to make sure this cannon was still able to resume itself when the season gets back.”

On the absence of fans and advice for Luka and KP experiencing playoffs for the first time with the Dallas Mavericks:

“It will hurt not having fans there so that’s why the atmosphere won’t be as electrifying as I’ve experienced before,” said Hardaway who made the playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks in 2017.

“In the playoffs, the intensity gets real high. Foul calls are not called as much as they are in the regular season. Things get a little bit more chippy while you are playing, so as long as you keep a level head and go out there and play and enjoy the moment, then I feel like you’ll succeed in that type of environment.

“One of the things I would tell them for sure is to control what you can control out there on the court. There’s going to be a lot of calls not going your way that you may get in the regular season and there are some things you’ll get away with. But at the end of the day you can’t lose focus,” he said.

“At the end of the  day just make sure you’re out there playing as hard as you can and enjoying it.”