MINNEAPOLIS — He wasn’t so rusty.
Tim Hardaway Jr. said he did felt better than he expected despite the Knicks’ losing upon his return, 118-108, at the Target Center on Friday.
After missing almost six weeks and 20 games with a stress reaction in his lower left leg, Hardaway was back, coming off the bench, scoring 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting in 24:45. He was a team-high plus 11.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek thought he “looked good’’ but still didn’t sense Hardaway was at top speed yet. The Knicks $71 million signee was content.
“Conditioning felt good actually,’’ Hardaway said. “I was very surprised. It will take a couple of games before I get a feeling of who I am on the floor.’’
Hardaway said it was the Hornacek’s decision on when he will be back in the starting lineup as he’s on a mid-20’s minutes limit.
“The stress reaction, we don’t want to throw him out there — here you go, you’re back to what you were six weeks ago,’’ Hornacek said. “We’ll see how it goes, but keep it as low as we can so we can build him up.’’
Hardaway said it was hardly an adjustment coming off the bench because he was a reserve “the majority of my career’’ until midway through last season with the Hawks.
“Yeah he looked good — you can tell he wasn’t up to his speed,’’ Hornacek said. “That’s going to take a little while. His speed even at this [stage] is faster than a lot of our guys. His speed will pick up and ability to drive to the basket. Maybe he’s not ready to make that two-set drive from the top of the key.”
Hardaway missed his first two shots but then found his range, finishing with seven points in 12 minutes by halftime. Hornacek played him in six-minute bursts.
“I feel good — had a little burst of speed here and there,’’ Hardaway said. “It was great to get my feet wet, taking hits, bumps, finishing at the rim, knocking down jumpers.”
Hardaway added he wouldn’t be playing if he…