Get an exclusive look into the lives of the newest NBA players to hit the courts this season. Follow the NBA’s top rookies – 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 Cavaliers) – through the 2013-14 season as they make the leap to playing on basketball’s biggest stage.
Name: Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Team: New York Knicks
Height/Weight: 6’6/205 lbs
The basketball game wasn’t even over and my best friend, Isaac Malagon, had already texted me.
“Dude, that was ridiculous,” the text said. “I jumped out to my feet because I knew it was coming.”
It was crazy. It’s the biggest highlight of my rookie year so far. You’ve probably seen it already–the follow-up dunk I scored against Miami. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try. I knew, before the dunk even happened, that the Heat weren’t really boxing out from the guard spot. I felt like I had an opportunity to get an extra possession for us.
It was toward the end of the third quarter. We were on a three-game winning streak and leading Miami by four points. The shot clock was running down and Amare (Stoudemire) put up a fadeaway from the free-throw line. When I went in there for the rebound, no one touched me. I didn’t have any contact so I got a running start and jumped as high as I could. Luckily enough, the ball bounced my way.
Ray Allen was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I normally grabbed the ball with two hands, but I knew if I didn’t grab it quick enough he would have gotten the rebound. I just reached out with one hand and before I knew, I was at the rim already. I just put in the basketball on top of him. After that, it was just crazy. It was even crazier to do it in front of my hometown team in Miami with my father, Tim Hardaway, Sr. (who played for the Heat), there watching.
I grew up watching Ray Allen. I’ve watched a lot of films on him and how he shoots the ball, the way he comes off screens, how he prepares hours before games. I’ve really tried to mimic everything he’s done in my career and it’s helped me along the way.
But that dunk was a highlight in a string of games that have really been our best all season. It started on our Texas trip. We got a big win against San Antonio, a Western powerhouse, then almost beat Houston before winning in Dallas. We all went into the Texas trip knowing that it was literally a new year, a new beginning. For us, our record was 0-0 and we’ve won 5 of our last 7 games since.
That Texas swing was big for us. Not just because of the games but because of the time we spent together, going to dinners, sitting around and talking about games, taking about how we could get better. That’s what’s important.
As told to Christopher Hunt
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