In the surreal world of the Las Vegas Summer League, a player's status can change dramatically from year to year. Last summer's callow rookie role player can turn into a squad's de facto star...if only for two wild weeks out on the desert. It's always fascinating to see how sophomores react to this sudden (and usually very temporary) role reversal.
And then there's Tim Hardaway Jr. The No. 24 pick in the 2013 draft became a surprising contributor for the Knicks. He came into his first season with fairly little hype -- a scorer stuck behind the reigning scoring champ, a reserve shooting guard stuck behind the reigning Sixth Man of the Year -- but forced his way into the rotation by shooting. And shooting. And shooting some more. His penchant for gunning landed him third on Seth Partnow's Chuck Percentage leaderboard for 2013-14:
Now, our Timmy is no longer a boy. He is the man on his Summer League squad -- perhaps the only player with a clearly defined role on the big club next season. How is he handling it? Oh, about how you'd expect he would.
Through the first two games, a noticeably more ripped Hardaway ripped shit up in the most Timmy way imaginable. I searched around YouTube for a clip of his performance, and this was all I found:
Oozed-out Super-Timmy took 15 shots and 12 free throws in 25 minutes in Friday's opener, then followed it up with 16 shots and six free throws on Saturday. The savage Nevada heat has had no effect on Hardaway's stamina -- he is an unstoppable shot-chucking machine.
Saturday's 20-point, no-rebound, no-assist game was the very essence of Summer League Tim, distilled into a single box score.
If basketball fans have learned anything this summer (and we haven't), it's that a player's on-court style is by no means a measure of his actual personality. Jason Kidd was a paradigm of unselfish, team-first basketball, and he's a goddamn maniac whose brazen lust for power shocked the Russians. THE RUSSIANS! In that same vein, Hardaway has shown himself to be a smart, mature young man. He's been saying all the right things about mentoring the rookies and working on improving his all-around game, and there's no reason to doubt his sincerity.
It's just...man, when he gets that bouncy orange thingy in his hands...
There is likely a part of Tim Hardaway that understands that he'll never be the focal point of an NBA offense. He has a long career ahead of him, but he'll never be a go-to scorer along the lines of Carmelo Anthony. His ability to succeed in this league in years to come will depend on his ability to accept that reality and adjust his game accordingly.
But that is the future...and most people don't come to Vegas to fret over the future. Tim came to the desert to make it rain. Maybe that was his plan all along, or maybe he just can't help himself.