Nigel Hayes made his Madison Square Garden debut on Sunday night, but it wasn't for the team he started his 2017-18 season with.
Hayes, an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin last season, began his season with the G-League Westchester Knicks. But, after pouring in 15.9 points per game this season, the Lakers signed him to a 10-day contract.
After two games with Los Angeles, he found his way back with the Knicks' G-League, but the Raptors came calling recently. And it was convenient that his first game with Toronto just so happened to be against the Knicks.
Hayes played just five minutes in the fourth quarter, but both threes he took dropped in for six points on the night. After the second three, he turned to wave his finger at the Knicks' bench after hearing someone taunt him.
"I think it was Trey [Burke] who yelled something," Hayes told The Post's Marc Berman. "I'm like, you didn't just yell that. You didn't because we played together in the G-League and you were passing me for 3s. It was friendly, playful banter."
Kyle O'Quinn was the actual Knicks player that said something to Hayes. But Burke, who was with the Westchester Knicks with Hayes this season, didn't mind him thinking it was him.
"Wasn't me, but if he wants it to be me, it was me," Burke said.
After the All-Star Break when Hayes returned to the Knicks following his LA stint, the Knicks decided to sign F Troy Williams to their NBA roster instead of Hayes. Though he felt he has improved tremendously after being waived during preseason, Hayes has no bad blood with the Knicks.
"Obviously they didn't see the value of bringing me in,'' Hayes said. "They felt they could get a better addition to the team by bringing someone else in. No need to get personal feelings in it. I made improvements the way they suggested when they waived me after preseason. I met those adjustments to help myself grow and exceeded them."
Now a Raptor, Hayes is trying his best to make himself a mainstay on an NBA roster.
"I can't worry about comparing myself to another player and saying I'm better than him,'' Hayes said. "I have to focus on Nigel. I bloomed a little too late. If I was this version of Nigel on draft night, I'd been on a roster rotation. I'm an NBA player. I took the stairs instead of the elevator, but I will make it to the top floor."