Sunday, 10 August 2014
Tim Hardaway Jr. thinks a second-round draft pick is a key to the Knicks' success
When Carmelo Anthony agreed to come back to the Knicks for the 2014-15 season after exploring his options, his message to his teammates was concise and direct.
“He just said it was time to work,” said Tim Hardaway Jr. “And that’s when everyone knew he was on a mission.”
If there is a way best to define the Knicks 2013-14 season, it might just be in what happened after it was all over. A new coach. The introduction of Phil Jackson. The departure of Tyson Chandler. And the long-running questions about exactly what went wrong last season and how much of it was a lack of chemistry, options, leadership or just plain bad luck.
“It was a lot of injuries that happened last year,” Hardaway Jr. said. “We didn’t really click on all cylinders … I would never say we never played hard, I mean we tried our hardest when we were out there, [but] some nights the ball just wasn’t going in. Some nights just weren’t our night.”
The Knicks also always seemed to be missing something in the team’s chemistry, often resulting in a frustrated Anthony and frustrated Chandler. In addition to working on his own game, Hardaway Jr. pointed to the Knicks second-round draft pick, Cleanthony Early, as a guy that could bring a change to the franchise from his first time on the court. It was a heralded draft pick — at 6-8, Early proved to be a dominating presence on the court in college, helping to lead Wichita State to surprising success especially in the regular season. Hardaway Jr. said he’d watched Early during his college years and thought he was one of the best players in the NCAA last season.
Early might also be the perfect anecdote to some of the effort problems that appeared to plague the Knicks at times last year, when photos of Anthony on the bench shaking his head at defensive lapses seemed at times to define everything about the team.
“Cleanthony is just the type of ballplayer that we need, that the city of New York needs. He’s from here — he’s from the Bronx — and he’s just ready to go. You could see in the summer league,” Hardaway Jr. said. “[...] He’s got a sense of urgency and grittiness [that he'll bring to] our team to come out and do whatever he can to help us win.”
Hardaway Jr, who spoke to For The Win as part of a Citi Kids program at Citi Field, where he talked to a group of kids from local YMCAs about leadership, drive and determination. It’s three qualities that he’s tried to embody this summer while playing in the summer league, with the USA Basketball select team and on his own. Through USA Basketball, he got to know some of the other young NBA standouts including Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Draymond Green. When asked about Paul George’s leg break, he cringed and shook his head.
“That’s really — I wouldn’t say a close friend — but a guy I always talk to when I see him,” he said. “Hopefully he gets a speedy recovery because it’s not going to be the same without him on the court.”