Watching NBA games and reading articles is a two-dimensonal funosphere, but NBA Twitter’s real-time combination of comedy and diverse opinionating takes the joy to another level. Except when it comes to the Knicks. Then, NBA Twitter devolves into cynical, Stygian simplicity:
Knicks don’t sign anybody = “Hahaha stupid Knicks”
Knicks linked to a big-name player = “Hahaha stupid Knick starfuckers”
Knicks sign a 24-year-old coming off a career year = “Hahaha stupid Knicks”
So after New York signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a $71M offer sheet, Twitter did what Twitter do.
Michigan Men:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 7, 2017
Tom Brady has 3 years left on his contract worth $58 million.
Knicks just gave Tim Hardaway Jr. 4 years, $71 million.
When your team fires Phil Jackson as a scapegoat then offers Tim Hardaway Jr. 71 million pic.twitter.com/vZAsGa9bxc— Fox Mulder (@illmaticJJ) July 7, 2017
I’m OK with the Knicks signing Hardaway. Ergo, a few rebuttals:
- The Knicks didn’t just sign some “somebody.” They signed a young wing who played more games than all but one Knick (Justin Holiday) and more minutes than any Knick besides Carmelo Anthony, Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis, and who played those games/minutes for a real-life playoff team, something the Knicks are still dreaming and working to become.
- Hardaway made more threes per 36 minutes (2.5) than any Knick last season, despite being the third option behind Dennis Schroeder and Paul Millsap. Two of the three Knicks who scored more than his 19 points per 36 might not be back in 2018 (Melo and Derrick Rose). Frank Ntilikina, New York’s lottery pick, is not the surefire bucket-getter that Dennis Smith Jr. or Malik Monk are purported to be. This team needs guys who can score going forward, especially once Porzingis takes the reins as the lead option.
- Hardaway started 30 games for a team that finished above .500. Above .500! Doesn’t make him Lou Gehrig. But the Hawks’ appreciation of his talents does suggest non-Knicks people who make a living based on evaluating talent think he has some skills.
- Tom Brady earns less than Hardaway because Tom Brady is no good at sports besides football. (Also, because he can’t beat Eli Manning when it counts—Ed.)
And just like in football, he only wins when he cheats.
- I saw that movie with the wheelchair drop many many years ago with my father. I have always remembered it, especially that scene, but I didn’t know what it was. Anybody?
I understand thinking the Knicks could have tried to pay Hardaway something less than $72 million. Maybe the trade kicker bothers you, particularly on the heels of Carmelo’s trade kicker fiasco. Maybe the seemingly circular illogic of trading Hardaway for Jerian Grant for Derrick Rose for Hardaway rubs you the wrong way. All understandable. But if you can get past those things, a different picture may emerge.
I really do feel if you changed “Knicks” to any other team and “Tim Hardaway Jr.” to “any other 24-year-old wing coming off a career year,” this move wouldn’t rankle so many so much. I see his time in Atlanta as a successful internship. He moved away, went to work for a legit company, acquired some skills he never would have here (defense, for one), got a taste of how a competent team practices, prepares and plays, and now he’s back, older (but still only entering his prime) and better (took a career-high number of two-pointers and three-pointers and tied his career-high in each percentage). Hardaway can shoot from distance and is effective in transition. That alone makes him revelatory on this roster.
In our fever dreams, there are other, seemingly more plausible options. Courtney Lee is a two-way player, but Courtney Lee is 31. Holiday had a lovely year as essentially a backup quarterback, and backup QBs are a lot easier to love when they’re not starting. Dion Waiters signed for $20M less than THJ. This is true. It’s also true Waiters took that deal before Hardaway received his, and that playing in South Beach under Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra is likely more enticing in 2017 than playing at MSG under James Dolan and Team President TBA, and if you think Waiters is a good fit going forward with Porzingis, Chris Christie has some lovely beachfront property you may be interested in being excluded from.
If you’re worried about the Knicks investing these years and dollars in a wing when Damyean Dotson looks oh so good in the summer league, remember it’s only the summer league. If Dotson becomes our Manu Ginobili or our Draymond Green, and makes the Hall-of-Fame as a Knick second-round pick, this signing is not going to keep him from shining through. Also, Chris Copeland once had a great summer league. Do you miss Chris Copeland? Also, it’s only the summer league. As exciting as Dotson has looked so far, odds are he’s more likely to end up out of the league in less than three years than in Springfield, or Team Colorado via Turkey via the end of the Pacer bench.
In Frank Ntilikina the Knicks drafted a wing who might be a point guard, but again: if Frank is legit, by the time he’s up for his next deal Hardaway will be off the books—unless he continues to improve and shows the team he deserves another contract. It’s okay to wait and hope for the best (this is where I acknowledge my last article was anything but hopeful, and that these articles are not necessarily diary entries exposing my deepest truest self, and also that following this team requires some doublethink). $17,000,000.00 is a lot of salary cap space lost. Who were they gonna spend it on? Are we still saving up for our messiah? No star is going to come to this organization, with its history and legacy of failure, to build things up from the bottom. When this team is good, then stars will grow attracted. Your own light’s gotta shine before outsiders can see it and come to it. In America, first you get the sugar. Then you get the power. Then you get the women.
A player who was once a Knick and was then exiled is voluntarily seeking to return. He does things the roster ain’t exactly rife with, things that are useful in the NBA today. Jeff Hornacek appears to be happily married, so Tim can probably relax more than last time he was here. This move could work. The Knicks spent money on a 24-year-old coming off a career year. They’re getting younger. They have all their draft picks. They may be headless in the front office, but sometimes dead is better.