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Las Vegas ties prominent in Mavericks’ run to NBA Finals

Updated June 1, 2024 - 8:16 pm

Patrick Dumont has enjoyed the playoff run immensely, how his Dallas Mavericks team has put in the work to position itself four wins from an NBA championship. How players really care about the journey.

There is a different twist to things as well. A local one.

Dallas has three players — Jaden Hardy, Derrick Jones Jr. and P.J. Washington — with direct basketball ties to Las Vegas.

All have high school or college experience in Southern Nevada.

“It has been unbelievably exciting,” said Dumont, the team’s governor and president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp. “When we first started spending time with the team, it was a lot of fun knowing we had people from our hometown. It shows you the quality and character of athletes that Las Vegas produces.

“Three players from one of the top teams in the NBA all came out of our community. It shows the strength of the athletic programs in Las Vegas. It shows the focus on youth achievement, and it shows the high character of people who come out of our community. They’re great guys and great players.

“It’s really unique and a great story. I can’t think of another NBA team where this has happened. I think it’s fascinating. It shows these are great players but also shows what our community is capable of.”

And now, after an impressive run through the Western Conference in which the Mavericks disposed of the Clippers, Thunder and Timberwolves, Dallas will meet the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Game 1 is Thursday in Boston.

‘For our fans’

Dumont said he is impressed most with watching all the hard work necessary to generate such a playoff run, the time and effort general manager Nico Harrison and coach Jason Kidd have exhibited. That of the players as well, from stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to the last reserve.

It was Dumont who held aloft the Western Conference championship trophy after the Mavericks eliminated Minnesota in five games Thursday.

“We did this for the city of Dallas and for our fans,” he said at the podium.

The NBA in December approved the sale of controlling interest in the Mavericks from Mark Cuban to the families of Dr. Miriam Adelson and Sivan and Patrick Dumont for an estimated $3.5 billion.

Patrick Dumont spoke Friday about what the playoff pursuit has meant to him most personally.

“Just creating this outcome and seeing great people develop and evolve and compete,” he said. “These were really challenging (Western Conference) series.

“After the trade deadline, the composition of the team changed. We brought in some new players, and they were embraced and look at the success this team has had by working together so well. That’s been the greatest thing to see.”

Any early thoughts on the Celtics?

“They are a great team with the best record in the NBA,” Dumont said. “This is going to be an exciting series and great for basketball. If you love basketball, this is it.”

And if you love the idea of local ties, this too is it.

Here’s a closer look at the three players who once called Las Vegas basketball home:

Jaden Hardy

He was a star at Coronado High who chose the G League over college. He has more than made the most of such a decision.

Hardy was selected by Sacramento in the second round of the 2022 draft and immediately dealt to the Mavericks, where the 6-foot-3-inch guard has carved out a role and found himself in the playoff rotation.

“I’m just trying to bring energy and bring another element to the team that makes us different and trying to make this championship run,” Hardy told reporters during the Western Conference finals. “Just being out there. I feel confident with those guys. Luka and Kyrie — they both trust me with the ball. Whenever they tell me to go, I go. So I’m not afraid of nobody.”

He averaged 13.5 minutes and 7.3 points during the regular season and scored 13 in Game 4 against Minnesota. He has also seen double figures in minutes in five of the past seven games.

Hardy is the younger brother of former UNLV player Amauri Hardy. Jaden averaged 30.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.4 assists as a junior at Coronado, when he was named Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year and the Boys Athlete of the Year by the Review-Journal.

With the G League Ignite, he averaged 17.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

“I think he has transitioned really well with the Mavericks,” said Ramsey Hardy, Jaden’s father. “It’s a big accomplishment being in the Finals and playing. This has been the best organization for his game.

“For him to be playing under a Hall of Famer like Jason Kidd is a blessing. You couldn’t ask for anything better. He’s only 21. He’s only going to get better. This is every kid’s dream that hoops.”

Derrick Jones Jr.

Talk about a bargain.

The former UNLV player signed with the Mavericks in August for the league minimum of around $2 million. He has certainly earned the paycheck.

Jones set career highs this season in minutes, scoring, 3-pointers and 3-point percentage — as a 27-year-old veteran who went undrafted and is with his fifth NBA team. But none have fit like this one. None have revealed his all-around ability like with the Mavericks.

Dallas can now count on Jones at both ends of the floor. He’s far from just the high-flying dunker most associated him as in his time with the Rebels (whom he spent one season with) and early into his professional career.

He’s a 6-6 defensive stopper who has taken on some of the biggest stars these playoffs have known. He can (and has) guarded every position at one point or another in his NBA tenure.

“You could see it early on with Derrick, not only because of his overwhelming athleticism, but he just had an instinct for the game,” said Bowling Green coach Todd Simon, who coached Jones at UNLV. “He was always going to be a devastating defender, but then his shot came along and his offensive feel. It’s not easy playing off of great players.

“He was always going to have an elite role. Some people can’t do it at a high level without the ball. He could. He was just always able to make stuff happen and impact the game. He had a fantastic second half of his one season (at UNLV) and put himself in line to be a pro.”

Jones averaged 11.5 points on nearly 60 percent shooting for the Rebels in 2015-16.

P.J. Washington

Dumont spoke of the trade deadline.

Well, the Mavericks really pulled one off with Washington, a former standout at Findlay Prep.

He was acquired from Charlotte in February. At the time, Dallas was struggling with its play inside, especially in rebounding and defense. Washington helped change everything for the Mavericks. He’s the X factor.

His ability to guard multiple positions helped make Dallas a top 10 defensive team since the trade. More importantly, Washington has turned what was a weakness (long-range shooting) into a strength. He’s more than an effective sidebar to the lead roles of Doncic and Irving.

The 25-year-old Washington just got done averaging 12 points and six rebounds against Minnesota. In a previous six-game series against Oklahoma City, he scored at least 21 points three times.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised at all,” said Rodney Haddix, who was an assistant coach at Findlay Prep during Washington’s time there. “He was always a hard worker and wanted to attain all these goals. He understands his role, his abilities, what he brings as a basketball player.

“I loved the trade when it happened. He wanted to do well (in Dallas) and obviously has. By playing next to Luka and Kyrie, he’s able to get into the paint and knock down his shots. His shooting has come a long way.”

Haddix remembers one night when he was running a drill with Washington, who couldn’t make five straight shots from all spots assigned on the floor.

“But he never quit,” Haddix said. “He’s not a quitter. The guys back then wanted to be pros, so we treated them as such. There wasn’t any magic dust sprinkled on them. You had to work, and (Washington) was a very hard worker and a great teammate.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the Adelson family, including Dr. Miriam Adelson, majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Las Vegas Sands President and COO Patrick Dumont.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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