Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. impresses in first exhibition game as a pro
LAS VEGAS -- The Knicks' summer-league opener Friday marked the first time Tim Hardaway Jr. wore an NBA jersey in a game, but the rookie wasn't exactly feeling butterflies.
"I played in front of 75,000 people not that many months ago," he said, referring to the NCAA Championship game at the Georgia Dome. "This is no big deal."
Part of what made Hardaway Jr. so attractive when the Knicks picked 24th in the draft last month was his been-there-before attitude, which he displayed here Friday in showing no hesitancy and being aggressive from the opening tip during his first exhibition game as a pro.
As the son of an NBA star and a three-year player at Michigan, with whom he played in the national title game a few months ago, Hardaway Jr. comes to the Knicks as not your typical rookie. The Knicks believe he can contribute right away, and he flashed a glimpse of why on the court Friday.
Hardaway Jr. scored eight points in the first quarter and finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in the Knicks' 77-72 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at the Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus.
Iman Shumpert played alongside Hardaway Jr. during most of the rookie's time (29:36) on the court and said he came away impressed by his demeanor and comfort level.
Coach Mike Woodson has described Hardaway Jr. as having "a high motor about him," and he showed that off midway through the first quarter when Shumpert connected with Hardaway Jr. on an alley-oop dunk. Shumpert hit the slashing rookie with a liner of a pass from well behind the three-point line.
"I love the way he plays," Shumpert said. "He didn't force any action. He can really play in a system. He can play freelance. He likes to get out and run."
Wearing No. 5 -- his father's number his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors -- Hardaway said he was determined to show "a lot of energy, a lot of passion." He did just that, perhaps most impressively even when his shots stopped falling.
With his father watching from the stands, Hardaway Jr. missed six of his last seven shots following the first quarter, but he remained active. "When my shot wasn't falling, I still kept my head up," he said. "I was still confident out there."
Notes & quotes: Teams who have room under the salary cap have until 5 p.m. Sunday to place a bid on Metta World Peace, who was amnestied by the Lakers. If no team bids, the Queensbridge product becomes a free agent and a potential target for the Knicks . . . Shumpert, playing mostly point guard, had two points, four assists and four turnovers in 27:26 . . . Farmingdale State product A.J. Matthews, trying to earn a training camp invitation, played only 4:45. He scored two points and had two rebounds.