Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek has said that he would like Hardaway to work on his conditioning before he returns to the starting lineup. The shooting guard hasn’t played since Nov. 29 due to a stress injury in his left leg.
New York (19-23) has struggled without Hardaway, going 8-12. The club has lost nine of its past 12 games and has missed the pressure Hardaway applies to opposing defenses.
After a slow start to the season, Hardaway then thrived in Hornacek’s offense, averaging 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
The Knicks hope that Hardaway’s return can ease the scoring burden off of forward Kristaps Porzingis and create more easy baskets.
Porzingis was shooting 40 percent during Hardaway’s absence. Before Hardaway went down with the injury, Porzingis had been shooting 47 percent from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Hardaway’s return should eat into playing time for both Michael Beasley and Lance Thomas, the Knicks’ top individual defender. Beasley often had shouldered the scoring burden for the Knicks in Hardaway’s absence, averaging 19 points on 54 percent shooting in New York’s previous nine games.