Get an exclusive look into the lives of the newest NBA players to hit the courts this season. Follow the NBA's top rookie - Tim Hardaway, Jr. (New York Knicks), Cody Zeller (Charlotte Bobcats), C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers), Michael Carter-Williams (Philadelphia 76ers) and Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Caviliers) - through the 2013-14 season as they make the leap to playing on basketball's biggest stage. First up, New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr.
Name: Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Team: New York Knicks
Position: Shooting Guard
Height/Weight: 6'6, 205 lbs
It was my very first preseason game. Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics nailed me on a screen. My back was turned and I wasn’t ready. I heard my whole entire back crack. I tried to get back on the play but by the time I moved my man had scored on me. That was my “Welcome to the League” moment.
I was, like, damn this is for real. You’ve got to be ready. You’re playing with the big boys now, I told myself. You have to be ready for whatever happens.
The first preseason game of our 2013-14 season was the moment things became even more real for me. It was the first time that I had shared the basketball court with Carmelo Anthony and other guys that I’ve looked up to since middle school. I also hit my first game-winner as a pro.
The play was a regular screen play that we’ve worked on tons of times in practice. I wanted C.J. Leslie to come off the screen but Coach [Mike] Woodson told me to come off the screen myself and be ready to shoot. The defender was a little behind me and I knew if I had a wide open look—or just a hair of a look—I’d be able to get the shot off. I hit it with eight seconds left and we went on to win the game 103-102 over the Celtics at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI
I’ve never really been shy about shooting the basketball. Growing up, my dad, Tim Hardaway Sr., always taught me that if I’m open I should let it fly. When you have a coach like Coach Woodson that’s big on that as well—the Knicks led the NBA in 3-point field goals made and attempted last year—I knew I was coming into a perfect situation, just like in college, at Michigan, we let the ball fly as well. You just have to do what you were brought to the franchise to do, and for me, that’s shoot. They drafted me for a reason and that’s because I shoot the ball very well. But everybody can score the ball in the NBA so my main focus right now is to play defense and be that main energy guy out there on the court and do whatever I can to help this team win.
The transition into the NBA has been easier, to some extent, for me because my father played 13 years in the NBA, most notably in Golden State and Miami. Guys like myself and Austin Rivers, who have fathers that played in the NBA, (Austin Rivers’ father Doc Rivers played 13 NBA seasons and is in his 13th season as a head coach), have an advantage because we’ve played against NBA players. We’ve seen how they train, how they get ready for games, and how hard they go. It’s just helped us get to this place.
The biggest transition off the court has been sleep. There just isn’t enough of it. In college, you can get away with certain things because you have class or you can go to bed a little earlier because you have to study. Now there’s a lot more traveling, more games, and appearances. You have to learn to balance your time wisely. But I’ve still found some time to take in the city.
Thanks for reading. Until next time.
Be sure to catch Tim Hardaway, Jr. and the New York Knicks take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day, 2:30 p.m. EST on ABC.