Tim Hardaway Jr. is returning to the Knicks.
As expected, the Hawks declined to match the 4-year, $ 71 million offer from the Knicks, according to ESPN, clearing the way for a reunion two years after Phil Jackson traded away Hardaway Jr.
The deal will eat up all of the Knicks’ cap space, although they can clear more through trades and/or signing players using exceptions. GM Steve Mills paid way over market value for Hardaway Jr., 25, who is coming off the best season of his career in Atlanta.
Hardaway Jr.’s new pact includes a trade kicker and a player option in the final year.
Knicks GM Steve Mills staking his reputation on Tim Hardaway Jr.
The Knicks would still like to secure another point guard to serve as a bridge for 18-year-old Frank Ntilikina, but the market dried up rapidly at the start of free agency.
“Bringing back Tim to his original NBA home is an exciting time for him and this franchise,” Mills said in a statement. “As a versatile wing whose game continues to improve, he will fit right into the core of players that make up a roster emphasizing youth, athleticism, accountability and unselfishness.”
Hardaway Jr. will give the Knicks 11 players with guaranteed deals, and they’re in negotiations with second-round pick Damyean Dotson on a contract.
Hardaway Jr., 25, was drafted by the Knicks in 2013 and was a first-team All-Rookie selection, but he then struggled once Jackson took over as Knicks president and the triangle offense arrived on Broadway.
Knicks waive Plumlee after signing Hardaway Jr. to offer sheet
Jackson, who was fired after a disastrous three seasons in charge, dealt Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks on draft night 2015 for the rights to pick Jerian Grant.
Having escaped from Jackson’s out-dated offense, Hardaway Jr. had his best NBA campaign last season with the Hawks. The former Michigan star averaged a career-best 14.5 points on 46 percent shooting in 79 games (including 30 starts).
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