Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks want rookie A.J. Hammons’ intensity to match his skill set

Rookie A.J. Hammons will be the center of the Dallas Mavericks’ attention during the summer league.
Rookie A.J. Hammons will be the center of the Dallas Mavericks’ attention during the summer league. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Summer league practice didn’t last a week, and A.J. Hammons has already grown tired of folks talking about him having a low motor.

It’s the bad rap Hammons was tagged with at Purdue. And it’s the bad rap that has followed him to Dallas, where the 7-foot center is a wide-eyed rookie for the Mavericks.

So how does Hammons, who signed his contract with the Mavericks on Friday, shake off a label that he doesn’t really care for?

“Yeah, I get tired of it,” he said. “But it’s just something you’ve got to work on and go show them that you’re getting better.”

Hammons hopes to begin showing the Mavericks in live games how much he’s progressed when they play the Miami Heat at 9 p.m. Saturday in summer league play in Las Vegas.

How long does he go without being tired, and what can he do and what is he doing when he’s out there, and what’s his activity level?

Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley

“I really just want to see how his intensity level sustains, because that’s what we’re talking about with him,” Mavericks summer league coach Jamahl Mosley said. “You can’t ask him and say, ‘Hey do this, do that,’ and 20 different things.

“If the one thing that we’re questioning or wondering about is the motor and the level of intensity, I’m going to focus on that. How long does he go without being tired, and what can he do and what is he doing when he’s out there, and what’s his activity level? Those types of things are going to be what I’m focusing most on because the skill set he has.”

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)

Hammons averaged 15 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season for the Boilermakers. Despite that solid showing, Hammons slid to the Mavs at the 46th pick of the second round.

“I would say I was overlooked, but I had a couple of questionable things,” Hammons said. “But like I say, everything happens for a reason. You’ve just got to go out there and play with a chip on your shoulders.”

Former Mavericks forward Brian Cardinal, who also played at Purdue, gave Hammons two thumbs up. Hammons played four years at Purdue.

His skill is undeniable, he can score, he can rebound, and he can block shots. He’s going to have a long NBA career.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

“He’s got a rap for being a little bit lackadaisical,” owner Mark Cuban said of Hammons. “But like Brian said, he’s so competitive that when guys start beating on him, all of that goes away.

“His skill is undeniable, he can score, he can rebound, and he can block shots. He’s going to have a long NBA career.”

Hammons was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, first-team All-Big Ten, and honorable mention All-American last season.

“I think for him to be good for us he’s going to have to be very defensively inclined, he’s going to have to focus a lot on defense and understand positioning and when to help and not to help,” Mosley said. “But he has a very good IQ, so I think he’ll be OK.”

Protecting the rim has become second nature to Hammons.

“I’m just trying to stick with that,” Hammons said. “Other than that, the offense will come.”

I think he gets it — I really do think he’s going to get it.

Jamahl Mosley

So will Hammons’ ability to shed that low-motor tag.

“They say he didn’t have a great motor, but one thing about it is, most guys that they say don’t have a motor don’t understand that they don’t have a motor,” Mosley said. “But I think he understands that, so he’s gotten half the battle already because he understands where he needs to be.

“But he also has to understand that the level that he thinks he needs to be, there’s going to be another level that he’s going to have to go to, because that’s just the other side of the curb that he’s going to have to see, which is great. But I think he gets it — I really do think he’s going to get it.”

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

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