“Those MFFL Fans, That’s Real.” Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks proving perfect fit

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Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Tim Hardaway Jr. is in the midst of his first full season with the Dallas Mavericks. We took a look at his experience, goals, and possible future.

On January 30, 2019, New York Knicks fans stood and rose from their seats as the final seconds ticked off the clock inside Madison Square Garden. An hours-long hum of appreciation morphed into a beholden hurrah, despite the Knicks being down 114-90 to the Dallas Mavericks. This wasn’t the kind of 24-point loss that the crowd had grown accustomed to.

Three… Two… One…

On the court, the backboards went bloodshot, illuminated by red LED lights skirting their boundaries. Hoots and hollers harmonized with the klaxon of the buzzer before both soon faded. Over the next few minutes, the rhapsody of applause simmered to a poignant murmur. European legend Dirk Nowitzki had just played his final NBA game in the ‘Mecca of basketball.’

In the stands, eyes went bloodshot, permeated by welling tears of some remaining fans skirting their emotional boundaries. Subtly, the sound of sniffles bounced from section to section, moving like nerve impulses from axon to dendrite. While some became somber, many New York faithful watched the game through a lens of hope. The Knicks had their own European seven-footer – Kristaps Porziņģis – who fans thought could one day be seen in the same light as Nowitzki.

One day was all it took. Porziņģis and Nowitzki were teammates on January 31, after New York and Dallas executed a seven-player trade. Along with Porziņģis, the Dallas Mavericks received Courtney Lee, Trey Burke, and Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks in exchange for Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., and two first-round picks. The trade, centered around Porziņģis, essentially turned the contracts of Lee, Burke, and Hardaway Jr. into salary fillers, throw-ins to make money work between the two bottom-feeding teams.

In dealing away Lee and Hardaway, the Knicks were able to clear both contracts – viewed by many as a pair of albatrosses – off their books as they looked to create cap space. In the case of Hardaway, the four-year, $71 million offer sheet that he inked in 2017 made him the Mavericks’ highest-paid player. His deal, with two seasons and a player-option still to come, was aging like milk. At the time, Danny Leroux of The Athletic examined the path forward for Lee and Hardaway, saying, “both of them are not worth their eight-figure salaries,” before alluding to Dallas possibly being a pit stop. Both “could be a part of various transactions before their contracts expire,” Leroux wrote.

By February 1, the trade and its full impact had been mostly digested on both sides. While New York fans licked their wounds and set their sights on Julius Randle and the 2019 free agency class, the Dallas fanbase waited, equally in earnest, for their offseason. Porziņģis was still recovering from a torn ACL, so the first glimpses of him alongside rookie sensation (and fellow European) Luka Dončić would have to wait.

Away from the hype surrounding Dončić and Porziņģis, Dallas fans had few hopes or expectations for Lee, Burke, or Hardaway Jr. With the franchise undergoing a transition of sorts, there was vague writing on the wall: a long-term future in Dallas was less than likely for the three other former Knicks. Regardless of how the former-Michigan guard may have played against his new team in the game before the trade, no one was having mirages of Trey Burke retiring as a Maverick…

Alright, alright. No more jokes, promise. Just stats, and some quotes. When the Dallas Mavericks traded for Kristaps Porziņģis last season, they did so to obtain the coveted ‘second star’ that is required to win in today’s NBA. Unbeknownst to Dallas, the trade also brought them another equally-sought piece of the league’s winning puzzle in Tim Hardaway Jr.

Earlier this month, Hardaway Jr. spoke with HoopsHabit about establishing a role in the best offense in NBA history, reorienting the trajectory of his career, and his future with the Mavericks – which will likely be a lot longer than anyone imagined.

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