By Jared Cunningham, Dallas Mavericks
January 8, 2013
New Year, New Opportunities
This year has gotten off to a great start! I was playing in the D-League with the Texas Legends for a couple weeks last month, and I found out at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 31 that the Dallas Mavericks had just recalled me. The Legends GM called me to say it was time to go back to the Mavs, and that I needed to be at the gym for practice that morning. That was a great phone call!
When I got to the gym, a lot of people had smiles on their faces. Dahntay Jones even said, “I missed you, rook!” It was a happy moment. I went with the team that afternoon to play Washington. A few of us went out to dinner for New Year’s Eve, and then we got a great win against the Wizards the next day. For us to get that win, it was a great start for our team’s new year.
Things are great. I came back to the team feeling more comfortable handling the ball and making my teammates better. I think the coaches have seen that in me. Getting recalled right before the first of the month, when the New Year hit, really gave me a fresh start to get focused and ready to play with the Mavs. I’m working on my all-around game, learning every day, developing into a better player and taking advice from our team’s veterans.
Vince Carter talks to me a lot and points out things to help me get better. He’s been in this league a long time, and he tells me to fight through adversity. My assistant coach Darrell Armstrong has helped me out a lot, too. It’s been great having two other rookies, Jae Crowder and Bernard James, as teammates, too. We are all in different situations — some playing, some not — but at the end of the day, we are all working hard together.
I don’t really have a New Year’s resolution, but I told myself that I’d come back to the Mavs with a lot of energy and help my team win. I’m really glad to be back with the team.
I’ll tell you a little bit about my D-League experience, which was really great for me. On Dec. 11, I was ready to leave for a Mavs road trip – bags packed and everything – and when I got to practice, my agent called. He told me I’d be going to the Texas Legends, which is in Frisco, about 30 minutes from Dallas. At first, I was really in disbelief. My agent told me it would be an opportunity for me to get back in shape and play basketball. I knew it would be a new challenge to play with guys I didn’t know in a different environment.
I ended up playing over 30 minutes a game (for seven games), and got to run the point guard position that I should be playing in the future. I had some good teammates looking out for me and trying to help me succeed. It was a lot of pressure, but I had to stay confident and in the right frame of mind. I kept telling myself that I needed to take advantage of the opportunity, go hard and go back to what I know I can do. I talked to my family a lot during that time, and also to my agent. He kept telling me that my time would come and to take advantage of the opportunity to get in shape and get up and down the floor.
During one of the Legends home games, Coach Carlisle came out to Frisco on a Mavs day off to watch me play. That meant a lot to me because I knew they cared about wanting me to grow and develop as a player. Seeing Coach there made me play even harder and focus even more.
The D-League was a good experience for me, but it was definitely different than the NBA. The first couple days I drove about 30 minutes back and forth from Dallas to Frisco. Then I decided to stay in a hotel with some other players from the Legends team so I didn’t have to drive that much. In the NBA, you fly on a charter plane. In the D-League, you fly commercial and take a lot of buses.
It was a very humbling experience and made me realize how fortunate I am to be in the NBA.
It was a great thing when the Legends coach said we had time off for a few days during Christmas. I caught the first plane to home to Oakland to spend Christmas with my family. We opened a couple presents on Christmas Eve; they were very happy to have me there. And it was very beneficial for me to have fun with my family for a couple days.
Jared Cunningham, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oregon State, was the 24th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs later traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.