Rock bottom for Knicks G Tim Hardaway Jr. was a five-hour bus ride through the snow in Ohio. The young guard's dream of playing in the NBA was being questioned as he had just lost his G-League game with the Canton Charge. And not only did he lose, but he had a bad night on the stat sheet as well.
It was on that bus that Hardaway actually thought about quitting basketball.
"I was second-guessing myself at the time, thinking about if I really wanted to play," Hardaway told Newsday's Barbara Barker. "It was a dark period."
Basketball has always been in Hardaway's DNA -- literally. His father, Tim Hardaway Sr., was a five-time All-Star and had his No. 10 retired by the Heat. So, it is safe to say Tim Jr. had a lot to live up to.
But it was that G-League struggle that both Hardaways agree saved Tim Jr.'s career. It gave the youngster a sense of distress that only hard work and determination would break. That is what Tim Sr. has tried to instill into his son at a young age, but admitted he could never succeed.
"We butted heads a lot," Tim Sr. said. "It was really my fault because I wanted him to be like me and play like me and act like me and approach the game like me. I forgot that he grew up differently."
By growing up differently, Tim Sr. should have said different worlds apart. While the eldest Hardaway grew up on the south side of Chicago, Tim Jr. was lucky enough to grow up in sunny Miami while his dad's NBA career flourished. But Tim Sr. wasn't going to make things easy on his son because he clearly succeeded through his circumstances.
That mindset didn't usually work out, though. The father and son duo would constantly butt heads, and Tim Jr. admitted silence would fill his home for weeks when things got really rough.
"We'd be in the same house, and I'd walk right past him," Tim Jr. said.
While they did butt heads, basketball was one thing they had in common. As one could imagine, it was hard for Tim Jr. to shake the expectations he had over his head thanks to his father's reputation. It also gave him some fuel going all the way back to his high school days at Miami Palmetto.
"It wasn't about not listening to him. It was about I want to make it on my own without anyone saying your dad did this for you," Tim Jr. said. "It's bad enough and then we both have the same name with just Junior. People speculate that you made it to the league 'cause of your pops."
There was clear tension between father and son during those days on the high school courts. And Miami Palmetto's athletic director felt it. So, one game during Tim Jr.'s junior year, the AD suggested Tim Sr. move to the top of the bleachers instead of sitting right next to the bench like he always did to get the best view of his son's skills.
The gesture worked, and what happened after the game mended their relationship.
"He asked me to drive home from the game with him," Tim Jr. said. "He apologized on the way home. We had lost and I was expecting something else and he apologized for everything. I accepted. Ever since that day moving forward, we've been like the closest we've ever been."
That relationship was put to the test years later when Tim Jr. questioned his love for basketball while playing in the G-League. Tim Sr. was one of the major influences in getting Tim Jr.'s head on straight, and preaching that things can only get better from here.
Hard work turned into results on the court, and the Hawks decision to make Tim Jr. reinvent himself came to fruition. He went from playing only 51 games in the 2015-16 season to 79 the following year with massive improvements on his stat sheet.
"It was a rude awakening and humbling," Tim Jr. said. "I have the utmost respect for the guys in the G League, because they are battling and trying to make it where you are. If they sense blood or fear in your eyes, they are going to try to take it."
After that 2016-17 season that saw 14.5 points per game, the Knicks decided to reunite with their former draft pick and did it in a big way. Tim Jr. got a four-year, $71 million deal from the Knicks new regime in president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. That large investment showed how much they believed he could be a valuable, young asset in their rebuild.
Fans were skeptical of the deal, but Tim Jr. backed it up on the court. It may not have been pretty -- he shot 31.7 percent from beyond the arc -- but he averaged a career-high with 17.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in his new starting role.
This season, the Knicks expect him to take the next step in his early career, and become one of the leaders of the franchise. Tim Sr. knows he's ready to take over in the Big Apple.
"I think he can be a leader on that team and I think he can help hold everybody accountable every night," Tim Sr. said. "We are different players, but we are both very competitive. He does not like to lose."