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) and C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers) – 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
As a first-year player, I could write a novel on my rookie basketball experience and, I promise, it would be award-winning after what I’ve been around. Win streaks and losing streaks. The professional athletes I’ve been around and now I’ve heard that Phil Jackson is coming in.
That’s an honor and a privilege. I’ve wanted to meet this guy ever since I was a kid. If you don’t listen to Phil Jackson something is wrong. I think he’s won the most championship out of anybody in the NBA, period. [Jackson has 11 NBA titles as a coach, the most in NBA history and was announced as the team’s new president of basketball operations today].
You’ve got a Hall of Famer in your program right now that’s done so much for the NBA. You’re bound to listen and care what he has to say. I wish that earlier in the season we were clicking on all cylinders a bit more but it finally seems like we’re staring to turn our season around. People just have to realize that this isn’t the same team that won 54 games last year. All those veterans aren’t here. This is a different group of guys with a different mentality. We just had to find it. It wasn’t like we were out there trying to lose on purpose. We were trying to win. Stuff just wasn’t’ going our way. We blamed each other. We blamed ourselves and we realized that we had to look in the mirror and if we wanted to turn things around, we had to take the blame.
Now we’re on a season-high six-game winning streak and fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This season has certainly been a roller-coaster and at the same time, I think it’s everything I’ve ever imagined. I’ve been around this game so much that it was hard not to imagine all the scenarios. I knew I would have a slump here and there and I knew I would have a stretch of games where I’d do really well and a stretch where I didn’t play as well. But everybody has that. It all depends on how you move on and how professional you are about it. For me, my approach is that there are no days off. Even any off-day is a chance to get in the gym and get shots up where you’re not running as much or hit the weight room and lift without even touching a ball.
I had this vision that I wasn’t going to see as much time on the court and that I wouldn’t play as much. But injuries and just practicing and showing the coaches that I care, helped me get in the rotation. Then there was hearing that coach Mike Woodson didn’t really play rookies. I wanted to change that. I made it a chip on my shoulder and I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always wanted to prove people around because I think people have always doubted me, saying I wouldn’t make it here or wouldn’t do this or that.
Now I’m having fun. We’re all having fun and it’s showing in how our team is playing. Speaking of fun, I have to talk a little bit about the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend last month. I remember some NBA people talking to us before the game, telling us that the game had fallen because players just wanted to run and dunk and not make it a real game. But we wanted to make it a game and we accomplished that. But Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters and I put on a one-on-one show as well. We went back and forth at each other, talking good-humored trash and making three-pointers back-to-back-to-back. It feel like a street ball game. I scored 36 points. He scored 31 and Andre Drummond took home the game’s MVP.
Overall, I’m happy here in New York. I’m glad that we’ve started to win games. I can finally talk to my mother and father now without them asking me what’s going on here. I’m living my dream. What can I say? It’s a dream come true.
– As told to Christopher Hunt
More of Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s Rookie Blog