Picture Penny Hardaway in your head and the image that comes to mind is the lanky, athletic, All-NBA level guard who was a force with the Orlando Magic. Well, that or ‘lil Penny.
Nobody pictures the three seasons near the end of his career when he was with the New York Knicks. He was traded there just at the start of 2004, but knee issues had him in street clothes for much of the next two-and-a-half years. Even when he got on the court, Hardaway was not the same, dominant guy.
Hardaway stopped by the brilliant “All The Smoke” podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson and called his time in New York “probably the most disappointing time” in his career.
“To be in the city on the biggest stage in the Big Apple, and not be me. I’m out here a shell of myself on the biggest stage and I’m like, ‘Why?’ I wish I could get to the point where I could just be me. And I just pushed through it and I just wasn’t me. And I love New York.
“I just felt the fans deserved me at the highest level because you know how New York is. And playing for the Knicks was a huge honor, and I didn’t take that lightly. But I was also going home like, I hate that I’m not me. I’m not myself.”
Hardaway played in 83 games over those two-and-a-half seasons, averaging 8.2 points per game with a dreadful 45.9 true shooting percentage. His PER in those seasons was 9.8. Hardaway was a shell of himself.
To Hardaway’s credit, he owns it. And it doesn’t take away from what an elite player he was earlier in his career.
The Knicks have a long history of collecting name players well past their prime — Jason Kidd, Joakim Noah, and so many more — and too often trading quality draft picks to get them. That unfortunate trend is one thing that has slowed down in recent years, to the delight of Knicks fans.