Basketball

Knicks' Tim Hardaway Jr. takes next step in his return to action

DALLAS — Tim Hardaway Jr. is getting closer to his return, and the Knicks need him desperately.

The $ 71 million guard, who has already missed five weeks with a stress injury to his leg, progressed to contact practice for the first time Saturday. He will be re-evaluated next week and is hoping for a return when the Knicks are on a Western Conference road trip from Jan. 17-26.

The 25-year-old said he’ll have another bone scan next week.

“Once I know what that says, then possibly I’ll be able to go fullcourt,” he said. “I’ve been (circling games to come back) since I’ve been out, from the first two weeks. First, I was itching to get back on Christmas, knew that wasn’t going to happen. Then I was itching to go back home to play in Miami (Friday) in front of my home town. It’s just painful not to be out there. I definitely had those two games circled on my calendar. But that’s how life works.”

Tim Hardaway Jr. has already missed five weeks with a stress injury in his leg.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has already missed five weeks with a stress injury in his leg.

(Julie Jacobson/AP)

The Knicks are 7-11 without Hardaway Jr. and have lost seven of their last eight. More than anything, the offense has suffered without New York’s best transition scorer.

“He’s a big part of our team,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We’ve been close in these games and you figure if you add one of your top players back that might be enough to get you over the hump in these games.”

The Knicks might be really pressed for offense Sunday against the Mavericks. In addition to Hardaway Jr.’s absence, Michael Beasley is listed as questionable with a sprained ankle. He suffered the injury in overtime of Friday’s loss to the Heat, and sat out of practice Saturday while limping in a walking boot. 

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