NEW YORK — We’re significantly less than two months into the year, but the New York Knicks already are experiencing what feels like a pivotal stretch of the program: a couple of months devoid of Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway is out for the subsequent two months (at minimum) owing to a stress ailment in his still left shin. He will be evaluated on Dec. 19, but there is certainly a probability that he could be sidelined nicely outside of that original evaluation. If Hardaway has a stress fracture, he’d be out for a minimum a month. If there is certainly no fracture, he could return shortly after that two-7 days evaluation.

At the quite minimum, the Knicks will have to figure out how to thrive devoid of their No. 2 scorer for the subsequent six games.

If Wednesday’s activity towards the Memphis Grizzlies was any indication, it may possibly not be that hard.

Just about each lineup adjust related with Hardaway’s absence labored out nicely for New York towards Memphis.

Courtney Lee, filling in at capturing guard, had a workforce-superior 24 details. Lance Thomas, in the beginning lineup at compact forward in Hardaway’s absence, helped the Knicks restrict Memphis to 41 p.c capturing.

Michael Beasley, again in a reserve function with Kristaps Porzingis (18 details) in the lineup, had 14 details on 5-for-7 capturing (alongside with just just one turnover).

The Knicks employed a mixture of ball motion and sound workforce defense — one thing they’d employed all through a amazingly solid get started to the year — to overwhelm Memphis after a slow get started. It can be a formula that they are going to likely have to rely on all through Hardaway’s absence.

“We know we can not outscore teams at this issue. We need to have to play genuinely great defense and get our details,” mentor Jeff Hornacek claimed.

It may possibly sound a bit hyperbolic, but it really is not a stretch to say that how the Knicks reply all through Hardaway’s absence could define their year. If New York (12-12) sputters with Hardaway out, workforce president Steve Mills and typical manager Scott Perry may possibly pick to unload veterans at the trade deadline with an eye toward the draft. (On that entrance, opposing teams carry on to show desire in Lee, per league sources.)

But if the Knicks can tread h2o all through Hardaway’s absence — and stay in playoff competition into late January — possibly Mills and Perry glance to bolster the roster at the Feb. 8 trade deadline and make a thrust for the postseason.

All of this, of course, underscores just how critical Hardaway has been for New York. After a slow get started, he proven himself as just one of the team’s most effective gamers. The 25-year-aged averaged 17.8 details, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 helps per activity just before his injuries, building most fail to remember about the slack-jawed response to his $71 million deal in excess of the summer time.

“There is a purpose when Steve Mills talked about receiving Tim [over the summer],” Hornacek claimed not long ago.

Now Hornacek and the coaching staff will have to figure out how to make up for Hardaway’s scoring and playmaking for the foreseeable foreseeable future.

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Courtney Lee scores 12 details in the 2nd quarter, dealing a steal for a layup and a clutch 3-pointer to tie New York with Memphis just before halftime.

With Hardaway out, New York likely will rely closely on Porzingis, Lee, Beasley, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to pick matters up on offense.

If (quite) latest record is any indication, Lee looks to be up for the challenge.

In his past five games, he is averaging 16.4 details per activity on 58 p.c capturing, like 54 p.c from outside of the arc. Final 7 days, Lee had a very simple explanation for his latest offensive surge.

“We’re not operating the triangle,” Lee claimed. “We’re operating a unique offense that is more quick-paced, and it really is more suitable for my design of play.”

No make a difference what offense the Knicks operate, Lee figures to carry on to get lots of prospects to score with Hardaway out. Hornacek claimed he required Lee to shoot 15 or 16 pictures per night time with Hardaway sidelined, a 50 p.c boost from Lee’s regular at the moment.

“I greater warm my arm up,” Lee joked after Wednesday’s acquire.

Of course, the Knicks also will rely more closely on Porzingis. The 3rd-year significant person was putting up All-NBA numbers early in the year, but had arrive again to earth more not long ago. Hardaway’s injuries provides Porzingis a probability to have the Knicks all through a pivotal stretch (and, as a byproduct, bolster his resume for a possible All-Star invite).

Porzingis, while, won’t essentially see it that way.

“I am usually trying to be intense, but I think I don’t need to have to overdo matters and do far too substantially,” he claimed. “I am just likely to play my activity.”

No make a difference how the Knicks technique matters on offense with Hardaway out — more pictures for Porzingis, Lee or anyone else — it really is clear that they are in the midst of a complicated stretch of the year. It can be just one that could decide whether they are actively playing for a playoff spot in April — or for pingpong balls.



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