Associated Press

Tim Hardaway Jr. ready for 2nd chance in New York with Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) — Tim Hardaway Jr. 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, the Knicks reached back to their past to sign Hardaway, a former first-round pick who didn’t fit under Jackson but they hope can flourish without him.

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

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 contract. When the Atlanta Hawks decided not to match the offer for the restricted free agent, Hardaway was officially 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 franchise-worst 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 grateful 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 career-best 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 Carmelo 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. “But that was learning a new offense, learning a new system and that staff, they didn’t draft me, so it was different. I can see this being more like my rookie type of season but being more mature, being able to take bigger strides and bigger steps on both ends of the floor.”

 

Danny Ainge unwittingly leaks Celtics’ draft pick on call with Terry Rozier during live show (video)

AP Photo/Bob Leverone
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Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.

But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.

Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:

Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.

As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?