New York Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. recently reflected on the humbling experience that helped him find his way as an NBA player.
The New York Knicks are depending heavily on Tim Hardaway Jr. to continue developing into a star-caliber player. The past two seasons have been undeniably encouraging, as he’s transformed his game by diversifying his offensive arsenal.
It was just two years ago, however, that Hardaway’s future in the NBA was in question—and the G League was the place he called his basketball home.
For those unfamiliar, Hardaway spent five games in the NBA G League during the 2015-16 season. It transpired less than two years after he’d been named to the 2014 All-Rookie First Team while playing for the Knicks.
According to Barbara Barker of Newsday, Hardaway’s G League stint was demoralizing enough to force him to consider quitting the sport.
"“I was second-guessing myself at the time, thinking about if I really wanted to play,” Hardaway recalled last week before a Knicks summer league game. “It was a dark period.”"
Hardaway ultimately decided to find the humility in disappointment, utilizing the experience as a rude awakening that helped him save his career.
"“It was a rude awakening and humbling,” said Tim Jr., who played two games with Canton and then later three games with San Antonio’s developmental team in Austin. “I have the utmost respect for the guys in the G League, because they are battling and trying to make it where you are. If they sense blood or fear in your eyes, they are going to try to take it.”"
It’s no coincidence that Hardaway has produced the two best seasons of his NBA career in the two years that have followed his stint in the G League.
In Hardaway’s first season since the humbling 2015-16 campaign, he averaged career-highs in points (14.5), rebounds (2.8), assists, (2.3), steals (0.7), and three-point field goals made (1.9) per game. He also shot a career-best 45.5 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from distance.
It was a tremendous sign of commitment by Hardaway, who was dangerously close to losing his place in the NBA just one season prior.
In 2017-18, Hardaway eclipsed every one of those averages by producing 17.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.3 three-point field goals made per game.
A mid-season injury interrupted Hardaway’s progress and had a direct impact on his efficiency, thus resulting in an underwhelming slash line of .421/.317/.816. Over the course of his final 21 games, however, he averaged 19.7 points on shooting marks of .448/.338/.891.
More importantly: Despite playing out of position at small forward, Hardaway finished the 2017-18 regular season with a positive RPM—including the best Defensive RPM of his career.
Come 2018-19, Tim Hardaway Jr. will have a chance to show what a healthy offseason can do for a player who’s within range of All-Star status with the New York Knicks.