During the heyday of the delicious Heat-Knicks rivalry — when the teams met four consecutive years in intense, combative playoff series — then-Heat guard Tim Hardaway was quoted as saying: “I hate the Knicks with all the hate you can hate with. Can you hate more than that? If you can, then I hate them that much.”
Now, in an odd twist, Hardaway — who does college scouting and community liaison work for the Heat — will become at least a part-time Knicks fan after New York selected his son, Tim Jr., 24th overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
“Wow! My nemesis,” Hardaway said by phone Friday as he traveled with his son to New York for Tim Jr.’s introductory Knicks news conference.
But “I was happy that he got in [the first round], and it doesn’t matter where he went,” Hardaway added. “It happened to be the Knicks. A lot of people were kidding me about that. Everyone is stunned because I had a lot of heated battles with the Knicks. It’s very ironic. The years I played and the rivalry we had, now it’s coming full circle.”
The irony was not lost on former Knicks guard Allan Houston, now the team’s assistant general manager. Houston was at the epicenter of that Heat-Knicks rivalry, hitting a game-winning shot to eliminate Miami from the 1999 postseason. Hardaway and his son walked by a photo of that shot at the Knicks’ practice site Friday.
“Allan called me after the pick,” Hardaway said, “and was like, ‘Wow! This is surreal. This is amazing that this comes about like this. We went at it 12, 15 years ago in the 1990s and now your son will be playing for the Knicks.’ I can remember Allan’s shot like it was yesterday.”
Yes, cheering for the Knicks will feel strange. But Hardaway said he will root for both his son and the Knicks when they’re not playing the Heat.
“I will root for him and his team to do well,” Hardaway said. “I want him to experience winning a championship, too. I want him to win as many games as he can.”
And what team will he root for when the Knicks are playing the Heat?
“I don’t even know how to approach that, don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’m going for the team that wins. That is going to be nerve-racking. I always want him to play well. You never want your son to fail.”
Hardaway downplayed how difficult this will be for him emotionally, considering the venom of the Heat-Knicks rivalry. The Heat beat the Knicks in the 1997 playoffs, but Miami was eliminated by New York in the postseason in 1998, 1999, and 2000.
“That era is over with,” Hardaway said. “It’s about him now. It’s not a conflict at all. It’s never about me.”
He said he will attend the Knicks’ opener but doesn’t expect to attend a lot of games in New York because of his Heat scouting work.
At 6-6, Hardaway is seven inches taller than this father and plays shooting guard, not point guard. A skilled shooter, Hardaway Jr. averaged 14.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for Michigan last season and made 73 of 195 three-pointers (37.4 percent). Hardaway and guard Trey Burke helped lead the Wolverines to the NCAA title game, which they lost to Louisville.
“He’s a pure two [guard] — a knockdown shooter, long, can play some defense,” Hardaway said. “Rivalries aside, [New York] is a real good fit for him — to come into an established team that needs help in shooting the ball and athleticism.”