Tim Hardaway Jr. focuses on defensive improvement for Knicks

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Tim Hardaway Jr. made the All Rookie First Team behind a strong offensive season for the Knicks. He was an aggressive scorer in transition with a nice catch-and-shoot touch who averaged 10.2 points a game and shot 36.3 percent from three. When the ball was in his hands there was a lot to like.

Defensively… not so much. He struggled to keep other two guards in front of him all season long. He was a mess on a Knicks team without a lot of good role models at that end of the court.

Hardaway realized that and in speaking with ESPNNewYork.com.

“I just want to be a better defender, a better vocal leader out there,” Hardaway Jr. said at Charity Day, hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners last Thursday. “That is my main focus. I know offense will come and I will get better at that each and every day. Where you separate yourself in the league is by playing team defense and I want to be a part of that.”

That’s a good attitude. We’ll see how that goes but you have to like that as a Knicks fan.

Hardaway is not destined to become a lockdown defender in the NBA, but he limits his role and minutes if he is just a traffic cone to dribble around. Knicks coach Derek Fisher is a good guy to learn from here, never an elite defender he was good enough that he stayed on the court and got his shots at the other end.

All the talk in New York has been about the triangle offense — and Hardaway will have to get used to that — but Phil Jackson’s teams defended. Well. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for that but you don’t win 11 rings coaching one end of the floor. That will be another adjustment for the Knicks (and with the current roster a real challenge).