MINNEAPOLIS Tim Hardaway Jr. was to make his return from a nearly six-week absence but come off the bench, Jeff Hornacek said Friday night.

Hardaway Jr. has missed the last 20 games with a stress reaction in his lower left leg.

Its easier for him to come off the bench first than starting him and play him eight minutes and were already wearing him out if (we want) him to finish the game, Hornacek said.

The Knicks have missed their second-leading scorer mostly in the past ten games when theyve gone 2-8. Hornacek wouldnt give a minutes estimate. The decision was made after he had a workout in the morning at shootaround and still felt fine.

We will limit his minutes and not play big minutes, Hornacek said. The stress reaction, we dont want to throw him out there here you go, youre back to what you were six weeks ago. Well see how it goes but keep it as low as we can so we can build him.

It was the first time Hornacek used the phrase stress reaction. The Knicks have called it a stress injury and never gave a timetable for his return.