MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Hardaway Jr. said he did better than expected despite the Knicks losing upon his return, 118-108, to the Timberwolves at Target Center.
After missing almost six weeks with a stress reaction in his lower left leg, Hardaway came off the bench Friday night to score 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting in 24:45 of action.
He was not perfect, but hardly was rusty considering the layoff.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said he thought Hardaway “looked good,” but still didn’t sense he was at top speed yet.
The Knicks’ $71 million signee said he was very happy how it went after missing the past 20 games.
“Conditioning felt good actually,’’ Hardaway said. “I was very surprised. It will take a couple of games before I get a feeling of who I am on the floor.’’
Hardaway said it was the coach’s decision on when he’ll be back in the starting lineup. Hardaway currently is on a minutes limit. He said it was hardly an adjustment coming off the bench since he was a reserve until midway through last season in Atlanta.
“Yeah, he looked good — you can tell he wasn’t up to his speed,’’ Hornacek said. “That’s going to take a little while. His speed even at this is faster than a lot of our guys. His speed will pick up and ability to drive to the basket. Maybe he’s not ready to make that two-set drive from the top of the key.”
Hardaway missed his first two shots, but then found his range, finishing with seven points — 3 of 8 from the field — in 12 minutes by intermission. Hornacek said before the game plan was to limit Hardaway’s playing time to the 20-minutes range, in six-minute bursts.
“I was really happy for him because he was hungry, working really hard during this stretch,’’ Enes Kanter said. “He’s back now. It makes everyone else so much confident and comfortable because of him. Offensively and defensively he was aggressive and energetic.’’
The former Michigan star hit the court for the first time since late November with 5:45 left in the first quarter and bricked a corner 3-pointer on his second possession. He scored his first basket on a 20-footer form the right wing with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. He was used for a six-minute stint to close the quarter, then returned with 6:14 left in the half, drilling his first 3-pointer.