Detroit — Since being let go by the Pistons in the offseason as an assistant coach for Stan Van Gundy, Tim Hardaway Sr. has been traveling the world promoting the NBA, while keeping the Detroit area as his home.
Hardaway was in India this month and the Philippines this summer showing off a few crossovers and also trying to help grow the game globally.
“Just been talking about the NBA, the different countries, making sure they understand, and to just keep watching us,” Hardaway Sr. said Tuesday before the New York Knicks played in Detroit. “Let them know: We appreciate you watching us and we’re here to help ya’ll to understand how we play.”
Hardaway Sr., who lives in West Bloomfield, was on hand to watch his son, Tim Hardaway Jr., play the team he coached with Van Gundy for four seasons.
An area fixture for many years as Hardaway Jr. played at Michigan, Hardaway Sr. has enjoyed watching his son’s progression in the league where he was a five-time All-Star.
The younger Hardaway is leading the Knicks with a 23.3 points a game , 15th in the NBA entering Tuesday.
“He’s playing well, he’s being a leader out there on the floor,” Hardaway Sr. said. “He’s helping these young guys understand how to play and trying to win late games.”
Hardaway Jr., 26, is now in his sixth year, a veteran by Knicks’ standards as coach David Fizdale set a franchise record earlier this season by starting a group with the youngest average age at 22 years, 100 days.
Another one of the "veterans" is Hardaway Jr.’s college teammate, Trey Burke, who he combined with to lead Michigan to the national championship game in 2013.
Burke has been on a scoring binge of his own lately, netting double figures in six of his last seven games entering Tuesday. During this run, he’s scoring 19.3 points per game and averaging 13.3 points in 18 games this season.
On Tuesday, they were going up against another member of John Beilein’s 2013 team in Glenn Robinson III of the Pistons.
“I don’t know know how many nights we spent 3 in the morning, 2 in the morning, just in the gym dreaming of this,” Robinson told reporters on Tuesday. “Now all of us playing at an elite level, it’s definitely a blessing.”
Hardaway Sr. said he’s been in touch with some of his old players with the Pistons, texting encouragement in good times and bad.
“I don’t get into it, but oh I might tell Ish (Smith) to shoot your first shot instead of pump-faking it,” Hardaway said, laughing. “They’re playing hard, thats the main thing.
“If they stay healthy ... If Reggie (Jackson) didn’t go down last year, we could’ve been fifth or sixth in the conference or probably could’ve had first round here at (our) house.
Hardaway Sr. said he’s interested in joining an NBA front office, possibly in a player development role, with hopes of becoming a general manager someday.
“I’m good with putting team together, I know talent. I know who can play and who can’t play,” he said. “I’ve been doing that all my life, putting teams together and making teams work.”
The Pistons’ longest home stand of the season continues Friday with Chicago and Saturday against Golden State with Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma City closing the six-game set at Little Caesars Arena.
Detroit’s weekend opponents could be getting a boost for the visits with some of their best players, as Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen (sprained right elbow) went through his first full-contact practice of the season on Tuesday and Stephen Curry (strained left groin) is expected back soon for Golden State.
The Warriors play at Toronto in a highly anticipated matchup Thursday before Saturday’s game in Detroit.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer