Last summer, Tim Hardaway Jr. signed a four-year, $71 million deal with New York. He went on to finish second on the team in points per game (behind only Kristaps Porzingis), averaging 17.5 this past season. But his career didn't go so well during his early NBA years.
The Knicks selected Hardaway with the No. 24 pick in the 2013 draft, and he had a solid rookie year, but after struggling with injuries in his second season, the Knicks traded him to the Atlanta Hawks for the rights to Jerian Grant. Hardaway didn't get much playing time early in the 2015 season, and the Hawks even sent him to the D-League. It was during that tumultuous stretch that he almost quit basketball.
Hardaway opened up about this season of his life in a fascinating interview with Newsday. "I was second-guessing myself at the time, thinking about if I really wanted to play," he said. "It was a dark period."
He spent five games with the Canton Charge and Austin Spurs. He struggled in his minor-league debut, a loss. Then they got their postgame meal at McDonalds and took a five-hour bus ride through the snow. It was quite a fall from grace, as he seemed destined to break out as a solid starter just a couple years prior.
"It was a rude awakening and humbling," Hardaway said. "I have the utmost respect for the guys in the G League, because they are battling and trying to make it where you are. If they sense blood or fear in your eyes, they are going to try to take it."
Hardaway worked his way back to the pros and averaged 14.5 points per game with Atlanta in 2016-17, then the Knicks rewarded him with a fat contract. It's great to see he has made his way back.