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Knicks' Tim Hardaway Jr. plans to add defense to his offensive skills

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Thornton shoots as Knicks

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Thornton shoots as Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. defends during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Hartford, Conn. Photo Credit: AP / Jessica Hill

Tim Hardaway Jr. isn't necessarily looking for his shot as soon as he enters the game. He said he's trying to make more of an impact on the other end of the court.

In that area, Hardaway, like the rest of the Knicks as they try to learn their new system, is a work in progress.

"I just want to give energy," he said. "This year, I just want to focus on giving energy on both ends of the floor. Just really, really try to concentrate on the defensive end, whatever it takes to get better. I know we have a great coaching staff here. I'm going to do whatever I can to get better on that end. Whenever the team needs me, I'll be able to deliver."

Hardaway always plays with energy, and he's never shy on the offensive end. There are few shots he doesn't like. But defense hasn't been a strength for the second-year guard.

Last season, opposing teams often went right at Hardaway, but the son of five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway has the build to be a solid defender. He is 6-6, 205 pounds, long and athletic.

Hardaway knows he has to put in extra work, and he says he has been doing that, including talking to Iman Shumpert, the Knicks' best perimeter defender, and coach Derek Fisher.

"A lot of studying, a lot of communicating with Shump, communicating with D-Fish,'' he said. "D-Fish was a great defensive player. The assistant coaching staff, they're really helping out, and just working on my legs getting stronger with our strength and conditioning coach."

If Hardaway can improve defensively, he will be a huge asset for the Knicks. Offensively, he should thrive in the triangle system because he can do so much as a wing player, including bringing the ball up and initiating things.Hardaway, who averaged 10.2 points and made the NBA's All-Rookie first team last season, has scored 29 points in the Knicks' first two preseason games. He is ahead of some of the veterans in learning the triangle offense because he played for the Knicks' summer league team, and he said he's returned with more confidence and has been more vocal.

"I see a more confident Tim, and Tim got a lot of confidence," Carmelo Anthony said with a laugh. "So I see a lot more confidence in Tim, knowing how good of a player he could be. I think he believes that now. He believes in himself a lot more now and it's only going to grow.

"I need Tim's confidence to be sky-high. I don't care how high he gets, I need him to have all that confidence."

Hardaway's development could lead to a spot in the starting lineup as the shooting guard. Shumpert seems to be the leading candidate for that role because he's a better defender. But Hardaway, the No. 24 pick in the 2013 draft, likely has more of a future with the Knicks than Shumpert and J.R. Smith.

"He's just an impressive young man," Fisher said. "Separate from basketball, he's just a solid person, solid character, and I think that's the reason why he's so diligent and so professional in his approach.

"As a young player, he's still impactful to his teammates. I think guys appreciate what he does every day. He's going to be important for us this season."


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