Tim Hardaway Jr. has finally admitted the rips he took in July after the Knicks lavished him with a four-year, $71 million contract stung, and he’s used them as “motivation’’ and feels “capable’’ of living up to the deal.
On Monday, Hardaway decided to play versus the Clippers despite suffering what appears to be plantar fasciitis in his left foot that forced him to take himself out of Friday’s game in Toronto. Hardaway has played in all 16 games and battled through calf and ankle injuries as well.
“I have to use [criticism] as motivation,” Hardaway said in an interview with Slam Magazine posted online Monday. “I take it as those are your fans and they’re coming at you with that. It hurts.
“But at the same time, you can’t harp on that. You have to go out there and show that you deserve what the Knicks offered. At the end of the day, it’s not my fault. They came to me. I knew that if it was something big [contract-wise], I would have to deliver. I’ve been delivering since last season in Atlanta. I feel like I’m confident and capable of getting what I got money-wise and going out there and playing for the team and playing for the franchise and playing for the city.”
After a poor start to the season, Hardaway has stepped up as secondary option to Kristaps Porzingis, but this latest foot ailment is concerning because it could be lingering.
Before Monday’s game, coach Jeff Hornacek said it could be plantar fasciitis, though the Knicks are not listing it as such. Hardaway, who is averaging 17.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists, said he has pain in the middle of his foot, by his arch. Plantar fasciitis can be an ailment that only goes away with substantial rest.
“I’m not a doctor so I don’t know, but it seems like that,’’ Hornacek said. “It seems like it’s on the inside bottom of the foot. It’s nothing that there’s one specific play where he turned it or anything like that, so it’s probably wear and tear. So it’s probably similar to that.’’
Before Monday’s game, Hardaway, who has been grouchy to the local media because of the firestorm after his July signing, brusquely walked by reporters in the locker room during media availability and declined comment.
Hornacek said it was Hardaway’s call not to rest.
“It could help him if he rests it,’’ Hornacek said. “Tim wants to play. He’s a tough kid. He’s a competitor. He feels that he’s got enough for us that he can go. Hopefully he comes in tomorrow and says it didn’t get worse. We just have to play it by ear.’’
In his second stint with the Knicks, Hardaway chose to live in Morningside Heights in Harlem as opposed to being in Westchester near their Tarrytown facility. In the Slam interview, Hardaway said the geographical move has been enlightening.
“It feels great to be back in New York,” he said. “You feel more like a Knick, you know? You always feel good when you’re living in the city for the team you play for. My previous years, I didn’t live here. I lived up north in White Plains by the practice facility. [Living in the city] is new for me — it’s great. New team, new front office, new system and new goals. I’m happy right now and I’m ready for the journey.”
In the piece, Hardaway took a little playful dig at the grittiness of the city while practicing at courts near his Harlem apartment.