This season, the Knicks have struggled mightily and ended up limping into the All-Star break following a frustrating loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
Despite that, Carmelo Anthony remains one of the more dominantly offensive players in all of the NBA. What's more, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. has also served as a rare bright spot for New York, largely in part also due to his own respective scoring prowess.
Deservedly so, both players are representing the Knicks at NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
Whereas Anthony will play in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday evening, Hardaway Jr.'s weekend kicked off on Friday night with an appearance in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Placed on a team assembled by NBA great Chris Webber, New York's resident young gun set out to give the fans quite a show. Unsurprisingly enough, Hardaway Jr. certainly did not disappoint.
In an exhibition like this, players are encouraged to let loose. They can run and gun, hoist up the long balls, and throw down electrifying dunks in hopes of entertaining the crowd. With little to no defensive intensity, both teams are given forty minutes to run with abandon up and down the court during this scoring frenzy.
The fact that the score of such a game (142-136; Grant Hill's team edged out Chris Webber's) ran so high is not surprisingly in the least. Still, one's ability to stand out amongst the rest of the talent present, is quite impressive indeed. For his own efforts, Hardaway Jr. was arguably someone who was able to shine the brightest through the contest.
Reunited with former college teammate Trey Burke (now of the Utah Jazz), the Michigan product let the ball fly as he put on a shooting clinic. Connecting from deep again and again, Hardaway Jr. carried himself with an exciting level of swagger and confidence, even while playing alongside the NBA's most intriguing young talent.
The Knicks' rookie converted on seven shots from long range (his team only had a total of twelve three-point field goals in all) on his way to scoring a game-high 36 points. Keeping his team afloat before they ultimately allowed the game to slip away, Hardaway Jr. poured in 16 of his points during a four-minute plus period in the fourth quarter. He and Cavaliers' sophomore guard Dion Waiters (he scored 31) traded buckets back and forth, making it an exciting finish almost all the way to the very end. Such competitiveness is not always something as apparent during such freestyle exhibitions.
Should Hardaway Jr.'s team have won, there's almost no doubt he would have been honored as the contest's M.V.P. Instead, it was Pistons' big man Andre Drummond who took home the award for Team Hill, after grabbing a Rising Stars Challenge record of 25 boards in the victory.