Humbled in the N.B.A.’s Shadows, Tim Hardaway Jr. Returns to the Spotlight

Humbled in the N.B.A.’s Shadows, Tim Hardaway Jr. Returns to the Spotlight

Tim Hardaway Jr. ended his first night in the N.B.A.’s developmental league with his first meal at McDonald’s in more than three years, swallowing his demotion with a side of fries. He had just missed 12 of 17 shots in his first game for the Canton Charge and felt the stress of a career at a crossroads as he settled in for a long snowy bus ride from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Ohio.

On the court, his rhythm suffered. Off it, he was disconnected from the big league’s first-class lifestyle. The criticism that he was no longer an N.B.A.-level player stuck in his head.

“That didn’t feel too good,” he said.

Hardaway is now far removed from that experience in December 2015. In two years, he has gone from the outskirts of the N.B.A. to a co-starring role on its most valuable franchise, the Knicks. Drafted by the organization in 2013 and traded away in 2015, he came full circle in July when he returned to New York with the seventh-most expensive free-agent contract of the summer: four years, $71 million.

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