After being quiet for the first five-plus days of free agency, the Knicks went all-in on bringing back a player from their recent past.
The Knicks signed restricted free agent guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71-million offer sheet Thursday night, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. The deal includes a 15 percent trade kicker and the fourth year is a player option.
The Knicks hope those wrinkles will make the Hawks blink and not match the offer sheet. Atlanta has two days to match it. They received it Thursday night, according to Bartelstein.
This was a surprising move, given that the Knicks had been inactive in free agency. People who spoke to the Knicks said they were looking to sign young players on short deals. Hardaway is only 25, but that is a significant investment and could lead to other moves.
First, the Knicks would have to renounce the rights to Derrick Rose to make room for Hardaway’s salary if the Hawks don’t match it. Also, it’s unclear what Courtney Lee’s future as a Knick would be. The Knicks signed him to a four-year, $50-million deal last season.
Many of the players on the Knicks’ roster were hand-picked by former team president Phil Jackson for their fit in the triangle offense. The Knicks parted ways with Jackson last week, meaning there could be a number of changes to find the players whom general manager Steve Mills and coach Jeff Hornacek want.
Hardaway was drafted 24th by the Knicks in 2013. He spent two seasons with the Knicks before Jackson traded him to Atlanta in a three-team deal for the draft rights to Jerian Grant. After one season, Grant was sent to the Bulls in the Rose deal.
Hardaway is coming off the most productive season of his four-year career. He averaged 14.5 points and shot 45.5 percent from the field in 27.3 minutes per game for the Hawks. He averaged 10.8 points per game in his two seasons with the Knicks.
Before this stunning move, the Knicks had expressed interest in acquiring Celtics guard Marcus Smart, according to a league source.
The Celtics are trying to clear salary-cap space to sign Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $128-million deal. But if they can work out a sign-and-trade with Utah for Hayward, it’s unclear if the Celtics will have to or want to part with Smart, 23.Multiple teams have inquired about him, the source added.
The Knicks’ most glaring need, though, is a veteran point guard to mentor first-round pick Frank Ntilikina and Ron Baker. They have been in touch with the agents for Rose, Rajon Rondo and Shelvin Mack. Previously, they reached an agreement on a new two-year deal with Baker, signed Ntilikina to his four-year rookie contract and inked undrafted rookie Luke Kornet to a two-way deal.
Dotson deal in the works. The Knicks have begun contract negotiations with second-round pick Damyean Dotson, a league source said. Dotson, 23, impressed the Knicks in summer league play with his shooting, rebounding and defense. The 6-6 swingman, whom the Knicks took with the No. 44 pick out of the University of Houston, had 20 points and nine rebounds Thursday, helping the Knicks close out summer league action with a 91-72 win over the Heat.
“Damyean can really shoot the ball,” Hornacek said. “He’s athletic. I thought he showed he can really stroke it . . . We know if he gets an open look, there’s a good chance he’s going to make it.”
Tim Hardaway Jr.
2016-17 season with Hawks: 14.5 PPG, 45.5 FG%, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Two seasons with Knicks: 10.8 PPG, 40.8 FG%, 1.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists