Tim Hardaway Jr. fails to crack Hawks’ initial rotation

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Here’s a breakdown of minutes by Hawks wings so far this season:

Absent from that list: Tim Hardaway Jr., whom Atlanta acquired in a three-way draft-night trade with two second-rounders for the No. 15 pick (Kelly Oubre). The Knicks landed the No. 19 pick (Jerian Grant) in the exchange.

Hardaway was inactive for the Hawks’ opener against the Pistons. With Mike Muscala and Thabo Sefolosha nursing injuries for Atlanta’s game against Hardaway’s old team last night, Hardaway was upgraded to a DNP-CD.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

“We’ve got a group of wings who are all fighting for opportunity,” Budenholzer said before Thursday’s game. “They’ve all done things well in the preseason. You have to make some hard decisions. He is somebody we feel strongly about. He’s going to be good for us. Tonight, if we need him, I know he’s available and ready.”

This isn’t a great start to Hardaway’s Atlanta tenure, and it intensifies doubts about the trade to get him. Wouldn’t the Hawks be better off with someone with four years remaining on his rookie-scale contract rather than Hardaway, who becomes a free agent in just two? If they wanted a wing, they could have kept their pick and drafted Kelly Oubre, Sam Dekker, Justin Anderson or R.J. Hunter. Or they could’ve taken the best player available, Bobby Portis.

It’s too soon to give up on Hardaway, who had a promising rookie year before regressing. There’s hope Atlanta’s offense can get him more open 3-pointers, and maybe his defense will improve with experience and playing for a sounder team. His effort on that end can be OK, though the results have been horrid.

We haven’t gotten a chance yet to see, because even Patterson – a former second-rounder who earned a roster spot on an unguaranteed deal – has earned more of Budenholzer’s trust. Often, this type of situation is a result of a disconnect between the front office and coaching staff. The general manager acquires a player the coach doesn’t want. But Budenholzer runs the front office. That’s a sign Hardaway’s absence from the lineup isn’t due merely to a difference of opinion. The man who traded for him won’t play him now, even with a key cog – Sefolosha – out. Then, Holiday was next man up.

The Knicks lost to Atlanta last night, 112-101, but they can at least take solace that the very early returns say they pulled one over on the Hawks.