In an offseason full of surprises, Tim Hardaway Jr. receiving a four-year, $71 offer by the New York Knicks in free agency was perhaps the most baffling of them all.
Two years before, the Knicks sent Hardaway to the Atlanta Hawks in a draft-day trade for Jerian Grant. In 2014-2015 with the Knicks, Hardaway averaged 11.5 points on 38.9 percent shooting, along with 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists over 24.0 minutes per game in 70 appearances. It appeared as though his time with the Knicks was over forever since that output didn't impress them, but they came calling again.
So far, that move has worked out well for both parties. Hardaway is averaging career-highs in points (18.6), rebounds (4.4), assists (3.4) and minutes (33.9) per game and the 10-9 Knicks have relied on his production alongside teammate Kristaps Porzingis.
If you remember back to when he was signed this past summer, the New York media bashed the Knicks organization for making the offer. On the surface, it seemed like a very risky financial move with little upside.
Knicks fans everywhere also voiced their disdain on social media.
But, that negativity actually had a positive effect on Hardaway.
“I have to use [criticism] as motivation,” he admitted to Peter Walsh of Slam in a recent interview. “I take it as those are your fans and they’re coming at you with that. It hurts. But at the same time, you can’t harp on that. You have to go out there and show that you deserve what the Knicks offered. At the end of the day, it’s not my fault. They came to me. I knew that if it was something big, I would have to deliver. I’ve been delivering since last season in Atlanta. I feel like I’m confident and capable of getting what I got money-wise and going out there and playing for the team and playing for the franchise and playing for the city.”
Not only was the entire NBA community shocked when Hardaway signed the $71 million deal, but he admitted that he was as well.
“It was a surprising feeling,” Hardaway said. “I feel like they sent me away to camp and they said, Well, we’ll see where you are down the road. Once I got a call from my agent that the Knicks were interested and they were willing to invest in my abilities, I was happy. I felt like I was on my way home. I felt like there was some unfinished business to take care of.”
This time around in New York, Hardaway is also spending his time off the court differently. “It feels great to be back in New York,” he said. “You feel more like a Knick, you know? You always feel good when you’re living in the city for the team you play for. My previous years, I didn’t live here. I lived up north in White Plains by the practice facility in Westchester. [Living in the city] is new for me—it’s great. New team, new front office, new system and new goals. I’m happy right now and I’m ready for the journey.”
While many Knicks fans originally disliked the deal, their 25-year-old wing seems to be entering his prime and is looking to make the most of his second stint with the club.