New York just can’t quit the Hardaways.
Two of my friends left the planet over the past two weeks, one taken by the Big H, the other by the Big C. Neither guy cared about basketball, and they would never have read this, but I miss my brothers and feel compelled to say so publicly. Right now, the New York Knicks are a welcome distraction from the hurt, and fortunately, a few news-y threads this week have served that purpose.
On Thursday, Marc Berman reported that Tim Hardaway, Sr. has joined the Knicks as a scout and “has been in the room this week while Knicks brass has interviewed draft prospects at the draft combine.” His employment has not been officially announced by the club.
The news sticks a knife in the belly of this old Knicks fan, because I loathed Hardaway with particular passion in the 90’s. The Game 5 melee of the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals is never far from my memory whenever New York plays Miami.
Since hanging up his jersey, Pappy Tim has made the rounds as an assistant coach, and most recently, he served on Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons squad from 2014-18. I guess we have to trust that Tim isn’t carrying out a long con to sabotage the Knicks on behalf of Pat Riley, and let’s all pray this isn’t a harbinger of Tim Junior returning to the club for a third stint.
At this week’s Chicago combine, the Knicks’ brass (and presumably Hardaway the Elder) interviewed Bennedict Mathurin, whom I profiled here, and Johnny Davis, whom I profiled here.
Bennedict Mathurin and Johnny Davis both interviewed with Knicks today.
Mathurin was this season’s Pac-12 Player of the Year. At the combine, the sophomore stood 6’6” in sneakers, weighed 204.6 lbs, and had a healthy 5.7% body fat. (Me too!) This year, the combo guard with the 6’9” wingspan averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 boards, and 2.5 dimes per game, and shot 45% from the floor, 37% from Threetown. It’s noteworthy that the Arizona Wildcat worked out with fellow Canadian RJ Barrett in Florida last summer.
In Chicago, the electrifying wing also sat down with the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Indiana Pacers, and Portland Trail Blazers. According to Berman, Mathurin said about the Knicks, “Playing in front of the Garden would be so crazy. They have good players, RJ, Julius [Randle], Immanuel [Quickley], they have pieces, a pretty good team with talent.” And then he said:
“All the interviews are pretty different. Coach Tom [Thibodeau], he’s a little bit different. We had a pretty interesting meeting. They told me about the players they had and [asked] if I had watched any of their games. It was mostly about getting to know each other.’’
Reading between the lines, I gather that Thibs creeped him out…and I find myself liking Mathurin even more. Here’s my off-Broadway interpretation of that scene:
THIBS: You like watching tape, Benn?
THIBS: Ehhh-xcellent. Have you watched all of our games from last season?
BENN: All? Uh…I saw a couple. I mean, they were all mostly the same. Unimaginative offense, fourth quarter collapses—
THIBS: No! Those are Internet lies! Those trolls don’t know basketball. You can’t understand what happened in a game until you’ve watched it a dozen times! Two dozen! Then watched it in reverse! Say…do you have a few spare hours to watch some film in my room? I have frozen Snickers bars.
HARDAWAY (leaps to his feet): Yo, let’s go! I travel with a trunk full of my highlight reels! It’s Timmy time, Thibs! Fire up the projector!
BENN (backs toward the door): Uh, I’m supposed to meet with Mr. Ujiri now…
I’m high on Johnny Davis, the talented shooting guard from Wisconsin. At the combine, Mr. Big Ten Player of the Year measured 6’5.75” tall in sneakers, weighed 196.4 lbs, and had 6.7% body fat (shame!) and a 6’8.5” wingspan. In his sophomore season, Johnny ranked first in defensive rebounds (214), second in field goal attempts (492), third in points per game (19.7) and free throws made (155), fifth in rebounds per game (8.2), and so on.
The kid has a huge upside, and while it’s exciting that he got a New York grilling in Chi-town, the odds of him falling out of the top 10 on Draft night are slim to none. Hence, my hopes are tempered.
However, Mathurin might still be available when the Knicks exercise their 11th pick, and they just might select him. In addition to his offensive prowess, Mathurin claims to be a gym rat and gives good D, which are qualities the Knicks’ front office has sought in recent draftees. Plus, he speaks French! RJ may finally have his buddy replacement for Frank Ntilikina.
On the other hand, the Knicks could just swap the 11th spot for a later pick and prizes. Over the past two drafts, Leon Rose & Co. have located gems farther down the board with that strategy, so don’t come crying to me on June 23 if they maneuver their way into the 20-35 range…
Ahh, Knickerbockers, once more you’ve distracted me from the realities of life. Peace til next time everybody. Love you Dave. Love you Steve.