Tim Hardaway Jr. was hot after another cold shooting night, upset with himself because he’s not giving the Knicks what they need after they gave him a $71 million contract over the summer.
With Kristaps Porzingis lost for the season with a torn left ACL, Hardaway was looked upon as the player who needed to lift his game to help fill that void. But Hardaway hasn’t come through. His shot has produced way more clanks than swishes.
“I know how much this team needs me and how important I am to this team,” Hardaway said. “Everybody needs help, you know? I want to be out there helping. So whatever I have to do, I’m going to continue to stay in the gym, keep getting extra reps, continue to stay locked in and keep firing away when they’re open.”
Hardaway, the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, hasn’t stopped firing. But he’s not connecting.
Over his last seven games, Hardaway is averaging just 8.9 points per game — or half of what his season average was before this funk (17.9). He’s shooting 24-for-93 overall (25.8 percent) in that time, including an abysmal 5-for-44 on three-pointers (11.4 percent).
Hardaway missed all eight of his three-point tries in Monday’s loss at Philadelphia. That was his fourth Ofer from deep in this dismal stretch. Hardaway also had an 0-for-9 game. At this point, Hardaway is beyond frustrated and befuddled.
“They feel great, man,” he said. “Some rattling in and out. They’re all in line. None are going left, none are going right, none of them are air-balling. Leave my hands great, feel good.
“It’s just, you try to do everything correctly and you try to go that route. Then you try to go the other route, just shooting the ball, see what happens, just shoot it, shoot to make it though. It’s not falling though. It gets frustrating and you try not to show it.”
The Knicks host Washington Wednesday in their last game before the All-Star break. They’ll try to end a season-long seven-game losing streak against a Wizards team that is without John Wall.
Hardaway said he’s not making any adjustments because his shot feels fine to him. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, a great shooter when he was a player, suggested that Hardaway try to get himself going by taking mid-range jumpers or attacking the basket and not settle for three-pointers.
“I know he’s trying to get himself going with that,” Hornacek said. “Try to drive the ball. Sometimes it’s not just trying to score. Drive in there and kick it out to somebody and maybe they won’t collapse. Maybe next time you get a little bit better look for the layup.
“I hate to tell a guy to quit shooting . . . because he is a good shooter but he’s going to have to mix it up. I think he always thinks that next one’s going in. It looks good but it’s just not going in. He’ll continue to work at it.”
Hardaway missed 20 games due to a stress injury in his lower left leg. When he returned, he played well. Hardaway averaged 21.8 points in his first four games back, including a 31-point performance in a win over Utah. Hardaway shot 6-for-7 on three-pointers that night.
He said he’s not doing anything differently. Hardaway just isn’t seeing them fall anymore.
“I got to do whatever I can to get out of it,” Hardaway said. “We’ve got one more game. Hopefully over this break, after this game, everybody can clear their minds. Everybody can reboot, energize themselves and finish this season off the right way.”
Hardaway was talking about the Knicks overall, but about himself specifically.
Newly acquired point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is looking forward to making his Madison Square Garden debut as a Knick Wednesday. “I’m excited to be here,” he said. “This is somewhere I wanted to be. So the love that I’ve been getting, I’m trying to send it right back to them. All I can do is play as hard as I can for the fans in New York and try to go out there and compete.”