Tim Hardaway Jr. said "The goal is just to get...

Tim Hardaway Jr. said "The goal is just to get better first . . . I'm not giving myself no deadline." Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s spirits are good and his leg is on the mend, but there still is no clear timetable for his return to the Knicks.

In his first remarks since being diagnosed with a “stress injury” in his lower left leg on Dec. 3, Hardaway called the injury “serious” but added that if it were the playoffs, he would be back in action.

“I’m not going to rush it,” he said when asked about returning to the court. “I’m going to wait until I’m 100 percent ready to go. If it was the playoffs, I’d be out there right now, but you’ve got to go out there and do what’s smart and what’s best for you.”

When asked directly if he could be back by the end of December, Hardaway made no predictions. “The goal is just to get better first,’’ he said. “That’s the goal. I’m not giving myself no deadline. I don’t want to get to that point and be upset and down on myself. I don’t want to give myself a set date on when I should return. I’ll do what I can to get this right. When I’m confident and ready to go, then we’ll see.’’

Hardaway is the team’s second-leading scorer at 17.8 points per game. Thursday night’s win over the Nets gave the Knicks a 4-3 record without him.

Hardaway said he will meet with doctors and be re-evaluated sometime in the “next couple of days.” He has played with various ailments this season, including calf, ankle and foot soreness. He said this injury is unrelated and shrugged off any suggestion that it could have been from overcompensation. In fact, he really isn’t sure how it happened.

“It felt like a bruise one day,’’ Hardaway said. “It started to hurt a little more and I got evaluated. It came out to be what it is now . . . It’s just separate.”

Hardaway has been wearing a boot for protection, though he said he also has been walking some without it. His workouts have been limited to the stationary bike, weights and some very limited shooting that involves no running.

Said Hardaway: “I don’t want to force the issue. I can play. I’ve played with sprained ankles before, bruises, stuff like that. That doesn’t mean anything to me. But this is serious. Mentally, I just want to be prepared to go out there and be able to go 100 percent all out while I’m there.”

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