The New York Knicks made one of the surprise moves of the summer as they re-signed former player Tim Hardaway Jr. to a huge contract.
After trading him to the Atlanta Hawks in 2015, the franchise elected to offer him a four-year, $71 million contract to bring him back to the Big Apple.
The large deal was met with criticism and confusion but in the early stages of his second stint with the Knicks, Hardaway is justifying the huge outlay.
17 games into the season, fans at Madison Square Garden can immediately see that this isn't the same player they shipped out two years ago.
They didn't see the shooting guard average more than 11.5 points in those two campaigns and were not too disappointed to see him depart.
It's fair to say most Knicks fans were baffled by the decision to bring him back on a big contract but they have quickly seen why.
The 25-year-old is currently averaging career-highs across the board with 18.3 points, 3.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
In an impressive win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, Hardaway erupted for a career-high 38 points and is quickly becoming a crowd favourite at MSG.
He has formed a good on-court relationship with star player Kristaps Porzingis and has been a huge reason behind the team's 10-7 start in the Eastern Conference.
The California native will face his former Hawks team for the first time on Friday night and head coach Jeff Hornacek admits he was delighted when they decided not to match the Knicks' offer to keep him.
“Tim had started to turn the corner in terms of being a great player," Jeff Hornacek said, per the New York Post. "He finished last season having a very, very good second half. We knew that was the beginning.
"I don’t think there was concern bringing him back. [president Steve] Mills did a great job of figuring out how to get him and what it might take. There was concern Atlanta might match it. When they didn’t, we were very happy.”
Hardaway has put the work in and developed into a solid two-way player. Coming into the league as the 24th pick in the draft in 2013, not much was expected of him but he could potentially become a star in New York and turn his contract into a bargain.
With the Michigan product proving to be a perfect second option alongside Porzingis, the team is hoping to secure a playoff spot at the end of the year, which not many predicted.
But the Knicks are turning heads and proving people wrong along the way. Hardaway is just glad to have a second chance to be a success in the league's biggest market.
“I’m thankful to be back here, man,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me. I’m happy. I’m excited. This group loves one another. You can see it on the floor. We’re playing for one another. The passion is there, and we continue to find our identity.”
New York basketball is slowly finding its way back and Hardaway is key to its revival.