Hardaway Jr. playing well, but could be rotation victim when J.R. returns

Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter

Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. has been impressive so far, but could be a rotation victim once J.R. Smith returns Nov. 10.

Tim Hardaway Jr.“It is a log jam,” coach Mike Woodson said Saturday. “That’s a good problem to have. But again, somebody’s not going to be able to play a lot of minutes. So they’ve just got to understand that.”

Woodson didn’t specifically single out Hardaway Jr., but he’s the logical choice to see his minutes cut once Smith finishes his five-game drug suspension. At that point, Woodson will have both Smith and Iman Shumpert at the two guard. When he opts to go with his small lineup, Woodson also puts Pablo Prigioni at the two.

“When you get your opportunity you’ve got to make the most of it to help us,” Woodson said. “At the end of the day, there’s 12 guys that suit up and I can’t play all 12. But the guys we do play, they’ve got to be productive. That’s how you win and win at a high level in this league.”

Still, Woodson has been impressed with Hardaway Jr., averaging 7.5 points in the first two games while shooting 3-of-7 from the arc. His three 3-pointers are the most on the team at this point.

The rookie played all but 5 seconds of the fourth quarter in Thursday’s 82-81 loss in Chicago, going 1-for-5. His 3-pointer began the Knicks’ comeback from 10 down and got them within 7. For the game, he was 4-for-13 for 10 points.

“Yes, I didn’t play Tim that much in the first game but I thought in the Chicago game, Tim stepped up,” Woodson said. “The wonderful thing about Tim, he’s a young kid that’s poised. And he’s not gonna do anything out of the ordinary. Now, a lot of things he don’t know from a defensive standpoint, and offensively, but those things will come as he gets more reps on the floor and the years come and go. But I thought the other night he was poised, and he made shots when he had to make them, and defensively he was scrapping a little bit. So I think he’s gonna be fine.”

For his part, the former Michigan standout said he took some confidence from the Bulls game.

“It was good,” he said. “It really built my confidence level. It was really good to see all the fans out there supporting us the entire game.”

His minutes may get cut when Smith returns, but for now he’s just trying to make the most of his opportunity.

Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.