The excitement hadn’t yet worn off, Tim Hardaway Jr. had just become a New York Knick, selected 24th overall in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft, and the 21-year-old picked up his phone to join a conference call with members of the media, apologetic for arriving a few minutes late.
“I had to talk to the staff of the New York Knicks,” said Hardaway Jr. “That’s why I took so long.”
It’s ok, Tim.
Known for being a soft-spoken, hard-working teammate off the court, on the court, Hardaway Jr. provides a perimeter threat the Knicks are looking to add to their roster as uncertainty surrounds 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith -- Smith opted out of the final year of his contract to remain in the Big Apple, leaving it up to the Knicks to re-sign the veteran free agent or let him walk.
Hardaway Jr. isn’t concerning himself with any of that, just a week away from starting his first NBA summer league with his new team, a team not long removed from being coined as a title contender behind elite scoring wing Carmelo Anthony.
“It’s going to be a really good fit,” said Hardaway Jr. “As long as I go out there and progress with the veterans and get with the coaching staff to see what they want me to do. I’m just going to go out there and play my best basketball and help the team out.”
Anthony gave his new teammate a shout out on twitter just minutes after the Knicks made the pick:
Watching the draft on television with 50 of his closest family and friends at a restaurant in the Miami area, Hardaway Jr. was as excited as he was relieved to know that his decision to leave Michigan early, one that came with criticism from many directions, was all worth it, going from projected second round pick to first round pick with a team that has some pieces to work with.
“I’ve just tried to be as consistent as possible,” said Hardaway Jr. on the process. “I’ve just tried to show everybody that I am a consistent ball player. I can handle the ball, rebound the ball, push it on the break when we’re doing 3-on-3, full court drills. Just making right plays and smart decisions. That’s what I tried to focus on and it worked out for me.
“I’m just happy to be part of the New York Knicks franchise and I’m just happy to be a part of this draft process. It was a tough, long six weeks.”
A very excited group of dedicated Knicks fans reacted with elation inside the Barclays Center when Hardaway Jr.’s name was called by David Stern Thursday, including long time Knicks fan and season ticket holder, Spike Lee.
His father, Tim Hardaway Sr., had his fair share of battles with the New York Knickerbockers throughout his career and during his time as a member of the Miami Heat. But that’s all water under the bridge at this point.
“All he said was that, ‘I love you and I’m a huge fan of yours now, no matter what,’” he said. “’I don’t care about the history I had with the Knicks. I’m your number one fan and I’m going to be rooting for you whether you’re with the Knicks or not. That’s what I love about him’”
Michigan coach John Beilein flew to New York for one night to attend the draft, a draft that gave the 35-year coaching veteran his first, first round NBA draft picks in his career with Trey Burke going No. 9 overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Utah Jazz.
“It means a lot,” said Hardaway Jr. “It means the world to us. We really wanted this opportunity. Coach Beilein and the coaching staff did a great job preparing us for this moment.”
Hardaway Jr. left Miami for New York Friday morning at 8 a.m.