Hardaway, who has now assumed the backup shooting guard spot, has appeared in 29 games and averaged 4.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 15.6 minutes. He has played in each of the past 25 games since returning from a short stint in the NBA Development League. His playing time has increased and coach Mike Budenholzer is turning to Hardaway for late-game defense. He has played more than 25 minutes in two of the past three games.
Grant, the rookie point guard, has appeared in 55 games for the Knicks and averaged 4.7 points, 2.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds in 15.6 minutes. Grant’s playing time has decreased under new head coach Kurt Rambis as he has averaged 13 minutes per game with three DNP’s in the past eight contests.
Budenholzer and several teammates said Hardaway played his best game of the season against the Hornets.
“I think so, if you put both ends of the court,” Budenholzer said. “He’s been doing really well defensively but I thought the floater going down the lane when it was a two- point game and he got in the lane and made that shot (were important). The layup in transition was big. He made a great pass to Al (Horford), who wasn’t able to finish. I think he did a lot of good things offensively in addition to his good defense.”
After the win, Kent Bazemore and Horford both stressed the importance of the depth that Hardaway brings to the team.
“He was great,” Horford said. “I feel like he is starting to understand what we expect from him, what we need. More than anything, defensively he is bringing it. When he can play defense the way he is playing, it just makes us a better team.”
Hardaway has scored in double-figures four times this season. His previous best game with the Hawks came at the 76ers on Feb. 3 when he had 13 points, a career-high seven rebounds, four assists and a steal. That was in blowout win. On Sunday, he played the final seven minutes when it appeared the Hawks were about to lose what was once a 24-point lead. For the game, he led the team with a plus-20 rating.
“It felt really good,” Hardaway said of is late-game contributions. “It doesn’t matter. As long as we get the win, I’m fine with that no matter who is on the court.”