The Hawks’ draft-night acquisition of shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks is finally paying off, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. The Knicks received the rights to point guard Jerian Grant and appeared to get the upper hand in the deal during the first half of the season, as Hardaway languished on Atlanta’s bench. Hardaway appeared in just four of the Hawks’ first 35 games but now has a rotation spot as the backup shooting guard, including a 25-minute stint on Sunday. “I feel like he is starting to understand what we expect from him, what we need,” Atlanta center Al Horford told Vivlamore. “More than anything, defensively he is bringing it.” While Hardaway’s playing time is increasing, Grant has seen decreased minutes under Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis, including three DNP’s in the past eight contests, Vivlamore adds.
In other news around the Southeast Division:
- Joe Johnson wants to finish his career with the Heat, observes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. The 34-year-old shooting guard signed with Miami after reaching a buyout agreement with the Nets and clearing waivers. Johnson, who scored 12 points in his Heat debut on Sunday, hopes it’s not a short-term arrangement, as he told Youngmisuk and other members of the media. “I think we’ve got a lot of veteran guys who know what it takes to win [and the possibility of remaining with the Heat] was another key thing for me,” he said. That’s certainly feasible from a salary-cap standpoint, as the Heat have only $48MM in guaranteed salary commitments next season.
- The Tobias Harris trade could define the tenure of Magic GM Rob Hennigan, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel opines. Harris was traded to the Pistons for the expiring contract of point guard Brandon Jennings and power forward Ersan Ilyasova. With a partial guarantee on the final year of Ilyasova’s contract, the Magic could have $45MM to spend on free agents this summer, Schmitz continues. Harris’ growth had leveled off, in Schmitz’s view, but the trade only works out if Hennigan can land a top-level free agent.
- Josh Richardson has been a revelation as the Heat’s new backup point guard, according to Ethan J. Skolnick of the Miami Herald. Thrust into the role because of injuries, Richardson has called upon the leadership qualities he showed in college at Tennessee, Skolnick adds. “It was tough at first, but now that I’ve kind of been forced into the backup point guard role, it’s a leadership role again,” Richardson told Skolnick. “So I get to kind of be me again, and talk and direct traffic.”