by Jacob Fiskus

While there’s plenty to be excited about in New York this season, very few expected Knicks rookie Tim Hardaway Jr to be one of them. That all changed on October 9, when the Knicks took on the Celtics for their pre-season opener.

The first-year guard out of Michigan showed off his range, connecting 3-5 from beyond the arc. He missed a couple of shots late in the game, but hit the one that mattered most.

Buzzer-beater and all, Hardaway still has a ways to go before he cracks the Knicks guard-heavy lineup. The good news for Knicks fans? He is well aware of the work that needs to be put in to do just that.

With a humble attitude, an excellent work ethic and a father who has seen and done it all—there to remind him to have fun and enjoy the grind—Tim Hardaway Jr seems to be headed in the right direction.

SLAM: I couldn’t help but notice that you like to rock the goatee. Coach Woody has arguably the most impressive goatee on the planet. Has he given you any tips on how to keep it kept?

Tim Hardaway Jr: [Laughs] Nah man, I rock the goatee because it was my pops’ signature look, so I sort of adopted that from him, to pay homage.

SLAM: How has your adjustment to the city life of the Big Apple been thus far?

TH: It’s very, very exciting man. You know there’s always something to do, something going on in the city, whether during the daytime or at night. It’s a great opportunity to be [in NYC] and to be on this team.

SLAM: Many players need to hear something that speaks to them before a game. What type of music are you knockin’ pre-game?

TH: You know, hip-hop, like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Jay Z.

SLAM: How about that new Drake album?

TH: Yeah Drake, MMG like Wale, Meek, Rick Ross.

SLAM: Is there anyone on your iPod that people wouldn’t expect to see?

TH: Hmm, I’ve got Marvin Gaye.

SLAM: Same here.

TH: Yeah, I listen to him before games actually. I listened to him before I came here [laughs].

SLAM: “Sexual Healing”?

TH: Yeah I got that, but I don’t listen to it all the time.

SLAM: Yeah, you’ve gotta save that one for the ladies.

TH: [Laughs]

SLAM: There’s an onslaught of talented guards on this Knicks team. Where do you see yourself fitting in with this team?

TH: You know, I feel that we already have plenty of scorers on the team, so I’m just trying to learn my role right now. Right now, I don’t really have a specific role. People know I can shoot and stretch the floor out. I can run the wing and be that energetic guy on the defensive end and offensive end, dive for loose balls, and do whatever I can to help the team win and whatever the coaches need me to do to get me on the court. So that’s what I’m gonna keep on doing.

SLAM: And you like to run the floor on the break…

TH: Yeah, it’s always good to have another guy that can run the break and have the same type of motor as a guy like JR Smith, Shump, Ray [Felton], who like pushing the break as well. All the guards here are so versatile, they can play many positions, so it’s good to have a lot of guys like that on your team.

SLAM: How has having a father that’s been to the show help you prepare for the lifestyle of the NBA, especially now that you’re playing in a city that can love you one minute, and hate you the next?

TH: He’s done a great job of making sure that I’m just having fun. That’s the only thing he wants me to do—to have fun, and being able to know your surroundings and just go out there and be who you are. Do what you do best, and just go out there and just play ball.

SLAM: What’s it like going up against tough competitors like Iman Shumpert and JR Smith in practice? Has that helped you prepare for the level of competition you’re going to face in the L?

TH: Oh, it helps a lot. You know any time you get switched on to Carmelo, it’s really uhh…

SLAM: Not fun [laughs].

TH: It’s not fun, but at the same time it gets you a whole lot better on the defensive end, especially guarding guys in the post. You know, he’s 6-8, strong, so it gets you tougher mentally and physically.

SLAM: What’s a realistic team goal for the Knicks this season?

TH: A realistic goal is for us to win a Championship. You know, that’s everybody’s goal at the end of the day, whether you play for this team, or the Orlando Magic, or the Heat. It doesn’t matter which team you play for. We definitely have the personnel to do it. We just need to go out there and be confident, know our roles, and make sure that everybody sacrifices for the team.

SLAM: What about personal goals—what’s a realistic personal goal for you in your first NBA season?

TH: Just to be the best person that I can be. You know this is new to me. I’m coming in here not knowing much at all. It was great having a father that has done this before, who showed me the ropes and all, but I’m on my own now. I’m just trying to adjust and get through my first year, and, you know, just take care of my body and stay healthy.