Har­d­away ready for sec­ond shot with Knicks

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK — Tim Har­d­away thought that with Phil Jack­son gone, maybe there was a chance someday he could come back to New York.

Even he was sur­prised it was this soon.

With Jack­son and his triangle of­fense gone, on Mon­day the Knicks reached back to their past to sign Har­d­away, a for­mer first-round pick who didn’t fit un­der Jack­son but who they hope can flour­ish with­out him.

“I def­i­nitely left with a bad taste in my mouth, and just to have an op­por­tu­nity to come back here is very rare, so you’ve got to make the most of that,” Har­d­away said.

Jack­son and the Knicks parted ways last month af­ter three dis­mal sea­sons and were quiet at the start of free agency un­til sign­ing Har­d­away to an of­fer sheet for a four-year, $71 mil­lion con­tract.

When the At­lanta Hawks de­cided not to match the of­fer for the re­stricted free agent, Har­d­away of­fi­cially be­came a Knick again on Satur­day.

“You play here for two years and then you’re gone and then two years af­ter you get a phone call and it’s like, ‘Wow, I wouldn’t ex­pect it com­ing from them,’” Har­d­away said.

The 6-foot-6 guard was the No 24 pick in the 2013 draft af­ter help­ing Michi­gan reach the NCAA cham­pi­onship game and was voted to the All-Rookie first team.

Jack­son was hired as team pres­i­dent late in that sea­son, fired coach Mike Wood­son and hired Derek Fisher to re­place him and im­ple­ment the triangle.

Har­d­away shot just 39 per­cent in 2014-15 as the Knicks stum­bled to a fran­chise­worst 17-65 fin­ish, and Jack­son dealt Har­d­away to At­lanta in a three-team deal on draft night for the rights to first-round pick Je­rian Grant.

“It was a tough sea­son for ev­ery­body on that team and they had to make changes. At the end of the day it’s a busi­ness and the goal is to make your team bet­ter,” Har­d­away said.

“They had a de­ci­sion to make, they made it and I rolled with it, and I was grate- ful that a team like At­lanta re­ally wanted me to be a part of their fran­chise.”

It was rocky at first in At­lanta, where Har­d­away was sent to the NBA Devel­op­ment League dur­ing his first sea­son. But he av­er­aged a ca­reerbest 14.5 points last sea­son and the Knicks no­ticed, mak­ing an of­fer that not only was too much for the Hawks to match but seemed too high for a player who has never started more than 30 games.

“I re­ally don’t know what to say about it. All I know is I’m go­ing to come in here and work my tail off,” Har­d­away said.

“I’m go­ing to give the fans what they want to see and I’m a ma­ture player now. Every­thing is in full ef­fect right now. I’m tak­ing every­thing very se­ri­ous.”

His role on the Knicks is un­known, as nei­ther gen­eral man­ager Steve Mills nor coach Jeff Hor­nacek at­tended Har­d­away’s rein­tro­duc­tion to the lo­cal me­dia.

Also un­clear is how the ros­ter around him will look as the Knicks seek a deal for Car- melo An­thony, whose locker was next to Har­d­away’s in New York.

“I mean it’s an odd feel­ing, but Melo’s got to do what’s best for his fam­ily and for him,” Har­d­away said.

“Yes, we def­i­nitely want him back, no ques­tion, and just hav­ing that veteran leader out there on the floor, a go-to guy that can get you a bucket at any given mo­ment of the game, it’s great. It’s great to have that, you want to have that, and it’ ll be tough for him to leave, but like I said, he has to do what’s best for him and his fam­ily.”

There may be no An­thony, but there cer­tainly won’t be Jack­son or the triangle, and that should mean a bet­ter Har­d­away than the one who left.

“I think I can re­ally ex­cel in this type of of­fense, rather than when I was in my sec­ond year in the league,” he said.

“I can see this be­ing more like my rookie sea­son, but be­ing more ma­ture, be­ing able to take big­ger strides.”

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