Mavericks rookie center A.J. Hammons, right, found early playing time sparse in the NBA but has been able to hone his game with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League. Brad Loper AP
Mavericks rookie center A.J. Hammons, right, found early playing time sparse in the NBA but has been able to hone his game with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League. Brad Loper AP

Dallas Mavericks

Hammons puts in time, work with Legends while awaiting return to Mavericks

February 05, 2017 4:14 PM

FRISCO

Not wanting A.J. Hammons to rust away on their bench, the Dallas Mavericks did the next best thing for their rookie center.

They assigned him to play for the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League.

One of the purposes of the D-League is for players to get more playing time so they can work on certain aspects of their game. And as any player or coach would attest to, it’s difficult for a player to improve if he’s just sitting on the bench, which is what was happening with Hammons in Dallas.

There’s nothing like game action. You can’t assimilate it in practices and you can’t assimilate it in workouts, so when you’re playing down here I think it just helps.

Texas Legends coach Bob MacKinnon on A.J. Hammons

In 17 games with the Mavs this season, Hammons averaged only 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds and shot 40.9 percent from the field while playing just 4.5 minutes per contest. And he didn’t play in 14 games because of a coach’s decision.

But with the Legends, the minutes have been coming in rapid-like fashion for Hammons.

“I think it’s great for him,” Legends coach Bob MacKinnon said. “I think it’s great for every assignment guy in our league that does it, and you see the benefits.

“There’s nothing like game action. You can’t assimilate it in practices and you can’t assimilate it in workouts, so when you’re playing down here I think it just helps.”

I just got to make sure I keep putting the extra work in and get the extra running in,” Hammons said. That’s the main thing right now. And then just showing them I can do more than what the average big man can do.

A.J. Hammons

In 11 games with the Legends, Hammons is averaging 13.1 points, seven rebounds and 1.9 blocks while playing 27.4 minutes per game. He also is shooting a healthy 55.7 percent from the field.

“I just got to make sure I keep putting the extra work in and get the extra running in,” Hammons said. “That’s the main thing right now.

“And then just showing them I can do more than what the average big man can do.”

The Mavs had some specifics things they wanted Hammons to work on to enhance his game and make him a more productive player once he returned to the Mavs.

Mavericks second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons

Mavericks rookie A.J. Hammons talks to the media after summer league practice at American Airline Center in Dallas, TX, Thursday, July 7, 2016. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Max Faulkner mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

“Just keeping my hands up and working on defense,” Hammons said. “The main thing right now is just running the floor and just showing my effort.

“The same things I came in [the NBA] with, and just making sure I stick with it.”

He’s a great player. He still got a lot to work on, but the Mavericks got a great kid.

Former Mavericks player DeJuan Blair on Hammons

DeJuan Blair, who played seven years in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs, Mavs and Washington Wizards — he recently signed with the Legends — credits Hammons for putting in the hard work that it takes to be an effective player in the NBA.

“He’s a great player,” said Blair, who played the 2013-14 season for the Mavs. “He still got a lot to work on, but the Mavericks got a great kid.”

Hammons was a second-round draft pick last summer out of Purdue. But after a slow start getting acclimated to the NBA, the 7-foot, 250-pounder has played double-digit minutes twice — 11 against Sacramento on Dec. 7 and 16 against Sacramento on Dec. 16.

Besides that, Hammons never played more than six minutes in a game this season. So the Mavs eventually decided to take the D-League route, where MacKinnon has been whipping Hammons into shape.

“He’s doing good,” MacKinnon said. “He’s getting a little bit better every day, and that’s the goal.

“He’s getting in better shape, obviously his conditioning is getting a lot better, and because of that he now can do things defensively that I don’t think he was able to do before. Playing 30-36 minutes now, he sees as he gets in better shape he’s not fouling like he was earlier.”

Hammons has no idea how long it will be before he hears back from the Mavs, who play in Denver on Monday at 8 p.m.

“I’m waiting on that text or phone call just like you are,” Hammons said. “I knew how everything was going to be (in the D-League), for the most part.

“I just got to come down here and grind, and just stick with that.”

Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle talks A.J. Hammons on draft night

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dprice@star-telegram.com

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Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

Mavericks at Nuggets

8 p.m. Monday, FSSW

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