Mavericks Summer League team leaves coach ‘pleasantly surprised’ after first practice session

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Mavericks Summer League team leaves coach 'pleasantly surprised' after first practice session

The most exciting 11 basketball days are just around the corner. All NBA 30 teams will be packing their bags in the next few days and flying to Las Vegas for the 2022 NBA Summer League, which begins July 7 and runs through July 17.

Like all teams, the Dallas Mavericks contingent is a hodgepodge of young talent trying to make their mark and earn a chance to play at the highest professional level in the world. After the first day of practice, Mavericks Summer League head coach Greg St. Jean likes the way his team is competing.

“I was pleasantly surprised with our group overall,” St. Jean told reporters on Tuesday. “[We] Had a few guys dinged up but that’s kinda to be expected. The boys played hard. But overall a really competitive group. A good number of guys who have played professionally before so a lot of this was a review for them. It was competitive. It was a fun first day.”

This is the second year that St. Jean is coaching the Dallas summer team. He has the task of mastering the desert tournament with 14 players of different skill levels and experience. There are some familiar names on the roster, namely Jaden Hardy, who the Mavericks traded to pick in the 2022 NBA draft last month, and Moses Wright, who was tackled with Dallas at the end of the 2021-22 regular season.

Both players had valuable G League experience last season. Hardy played for Ignite while Wright hopped around with the Agua Caliente Clippers and the Texas Legends before earning a First Team All-G League selection. St. Jean understands that their time in Vegas will be a valuable learning experience for both of them.

“Jaden was dynamic, as expected,” St. Jean said. “Apparently, [he’s] a very good athlete. Of course it makes the game faster. He did a good job. A lot of it will be intro for him. We’re talking about guys playing professionally or playing in the G League or abroad – although he’s played with Ignite this year – this is a very important time for us to make sure we’re connecting individually and within our collective program with Jaden teaching and working what we are trying to do on both ends of the floor.”

Last season with the Ignite, Hardy averaged 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25 games. He shot 37.6 percent overall and 30.9 percent on 7.5 three-point attempts per game. Brown was able to see Hardy play up close as both of their teams played.

“I was at Agua Caliente,” Wright said. “He gave us almost 30 [points]. Something like Art. 26? I was just watching; I wasn’t on the pitch. I said, ‘Damn, this young guy is nice.’”

Wright averaged 19.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks in 28 games with Agua Caliente and Texas. He shot 56.2 percent from the ground and 39.5 percent from deep. As with Hardy, St. Jean sees the Summer League as a chance for Wright to adjust to the level of gameplay and focus on honing his skills.

“Moses obviously had a phenomenal year in the G League – was with Agua Caliente and then with us,” St. Jean said. “First team All G League, right? So, that’s pretty darn good in your freshman year. I think the biggest thing for him is adapting to NBA speed and NBA size. He’s a versatile defender, obviously a versatile offensive player. I think like Jaden and every young player, let’s make sure we simplify his game and find out what his NBA skills are and keep working on that. He did a good job this summer. I know he worked hard. We look forward to having him here in the next few days.”

St Jean have two keys they want their players to adhere to this summer: hard work and selflessness. Wright knows that if he sticks to these things, he can achieve his goal of being the most dominant player on the court and possibly snagging the Mavericks’ last open roster spot.

“For me, since I’m not going to be Luka or anything or Dirk, I have to come in here and whatever role they have for me,” Wright said. “Whatever role they dictate to me, I have to play it at the highest level to stay. maintain [being] here. Whatever I do, do it at the highest level. They tell me to jump over a building, I jump over a building. I’ll find a way to do it.”

Hardy and Wright aren’t the only household names heading to Las Vegas this week. Josh Green will also be there. Green will travel with the team for practice and training, but he is not a member of the squad. St. Jean said he was not involved in the decision to drop Green from the roster, but he is pleased to have Green with him during the team’s stay in the desert.

“I wasn’t necessarily fully involved in Josh’s summer schedule, but I know that Josh has already worked very hard this summer,” St. Jean said. “He was one of those guys who had a very big chip on his shoulder after our playoff run and has had a phenomenal summer so far. He’s going to be with us in Las Vegas, which is going to be great. We look forward to seeing him and being around him, as do some of our other squad players.”

Having Green around could provide valuable insight and guidance for players struggling to make an impact and earn a spot at the next level. The Summer League is an opportunity to get a taste of what the NBA has to offer, albeit in a stripped down, simplified way. St. Jean knows that those players with professional experience and those who come from top-notch college programs will prove an asset to the team.

“You can also tell who’s coming out of a college program that’s running some kind of NBA-level system or NBA-level coaching,” St. Jean said. “We have Marcus Bingham. He comes out of Tom Izzo’s system at Michigan State. Coach Izzo is phenomenal in preparing his boys to play in the NBA. So when he comes on day 1, he’s prepared. That’s only an example.

“Justin Gorham has obviously played before, but he came from [the University of] Houston before and played for Kelvin Sampson. So, the guys who play with little to no pro experience but come out of these types of programs obviously understand the level of competition, which I think is great. It’s nice to have guys who played professionally. It gives them the opportunity to be almost a veteran in what we do.”

With everything at stake for players, the Summer League is easily one of the most exciting and entertaining events of the NBA calendar year. Not only is it fun, but the stakes are high. For eleven days, hundreds of gamblers in Las Vegas will gamble everything.

“Everyone out here is fighting for something,” Wright said. “Everyone has that motor that comes into the Summer League with what they want, what they want to achieve.”

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