GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Tim Hardaway Jr. took a big step toward returning to the Knicks. On Tuesday, he went through practice in full, scrimmaged full-court with his teammates and afterward did some individual work.
Hardaway has missed the last 19 games with a stress injury in his lower left leg. There still is no timetable for when he will come back, but Hardaway said he experienced no pain, and he wasn’t limited at all in his most strenuous workout in five weeks.
“It feels great,” Hardaway said. “I’m just happy to be back, to get up and down with the guys, get some of those competitive juices flowing.
“Once you got your teammates talking trash, all competitive spirits are flowing and people wanting to win ballgames, you kind of don’t worry about it. The game comes back to you. everything is second nature. It makes you go out there and want to win.”
It was a positive sign that Hardaway said he wasn’t thinking about his injury, or trying to not to make certain moves in fear of risking a setback. Hardaway said he still needs to be re-evaluated and have a bone scan, so he can’t say when he will be able to play.
Hardaway, who signed a four-year, $71-million contract over the summer, has only appeared in 21 games. He is second behind Kristaps Porzingis in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per game.
This was the second time he’s done some contact work. Hardaway played a series of one-on-one games Saturday. After that, he said the Knicks’ six-game trip out west that begins next week was a possibility for his return. But Hardaway said it’s all yet to be determined.
“No idea yet, no dates,” Hardaway said. “Just when I said that Saturday it’s because the majority of our games are on the road this month, that’s why I said it. It could be a home game, could be a road game.
“I’ve still got to get evaluated first. Once that’s taken care of then I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to give you all a timetable.”
The Knicks (19-21) only have two more home games before their long trip — Wednesday against the Bulls and Sunday versus the Pelicans. The second game is the start of a back-to-back. It’s doubtful the Knicks would bring him back for a back-to-back, or at least play him in both ends.
Michael Beasley, who missed the prior game with a sprained left ankle, is questionable for Wednesday’s game. Hardaway won’t play against Chicago when the Knicks try to snap a two-game home losing streak.
“They gradually build him up and see how he responds,” Jeff Hornacek said. “If he shows up tomorrow morning and he’s sore or something, then they’ll back him off. But I don’t anticipate it’s going to be tomorrow. After that, we’ll see.”
Hornacek has said Hardaway could be on a minutes restriction whenever he returns. Hardaway has maintained he wants to play when he’s fully healthy so he can be himself with no limitations or restrictions.
“I’m coming back when I’m confident,” he said. “Right now we’re close. It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what the doctors say and what my training staff want me to do after I get the news. I have no answer for that right now.”
The Knicks have missed Hardaway’s scoring and energy. They’re 8-11 without Hardaway, and many nights Porzingis has struggled offensively without the Knicks’ second option.
“It’s tough,” Hardaway said. “I just wish I was out there just helping them every possession. Health is first. Health is first. I just want to make sure that this is all taken care of. It looks like it’s going very well.”
It’s possible by the time he returns the Knicks could have a new player with whom Hardaway is familiar.
The Knicks are considering signing G League guard Trey Burke, Hardaway’s teammate at Michigan. Hardaway is all for being reunited with Burke, who is playing for the Westchester Knicks.
“It’d be great if he does get called up,” Hardaway said. “We play off one another very, very well. I would definitely be happy with him. It would be like the old times: just him bringing the ball up the court and me running the wing, just doing our thing. It won’t take that long for us to mesh. That’s a positive.”
The Knicks first would need to open a roster spot for Burke. If they can’t make a trade, a candidate to be waived would be Ramon Sessions. But Hornacek said management hasn’t spoken to him about adding a new player.
“I don’t think there’s a roster spot,” Hornacek said. “We have 15 guys now so that’s on them but the team we have now are the guys I’m focused on.
“He’s playing really well down there. We thought he would when we brought him in and we decided he’d play with the Westchester team. Those guys make those decisions and as far as I know this is our team.”