Jr. showed immense talent and potential during his rookie year when he finished fifth in the NBA Rookie of the Year Award balloting, and he was a first-team NBA All-Rookie selection. He even participated in All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge, but once the season was over, everything began to go downhill. His minutes weren’t as plentiful because of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, and he’d eventually be dealt to the Atlanta Hawks for the draft rights to Jerian Grant. He’d soon find himself with playing for the Canton Charge—the Cleveland Cavalier’s D-League affiliate. And in a new interview with Newsday, he revealed how tough that period in his career was.
“It was a rude awakening and humbling,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for the guys in the G League, because they are battling and trying to make it where you are. If they sense blood or fear in your eyes, they are going to try to take it.”
It was then that he second-guessed himself, his talents, and wondered if he was really meant to be in the NBA.
“I was second-guessing myself at the time, thinking about if I really wanted to play. It was a dark period,” he said prior to a recent Knicks Summer League game.
He also opened up about the relationship with his father, who was his coach early in his life. It wasn’t until a high school game where Hardaway Jr. looked into the stands and saw that “every student from the opposing school was wearing a giant mask of his father’s head posted on a stick” that they decided he should focus on just being his father. From then on, their relationship flourished, and Hardaway’s game improved enough for him to ink a four-year, $71-million contract with the New York Knicks.