Welcome to New York, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Yesterday, you could ask any Knicks fan what the name “Hardaway” meant, and they’d probably say a bunch of words we’re not allowed to write on this blog. Today, “Hardaway” means the future: after his father went to battle against New York for years in the mid-90’s, yesterday Tim Hardaway, Jr. joined the Knicks as the 24th pick in last night’s NBA Draft.

Junior is a polished, experienced two-guard with both the family and collegiate pedigree to succeed in the League right away. A sweet spot-up shooter and a beast in transition as both a finisher and a facilitator, he can beat you every which way. He’s got excellent size and strength to check small forwards, and the quickness to swallow up shooting guards. It’s an impressive package, especially at no. 24.

But we all know going from college star to NBA rook is about more than physical skills, and as his father saw during the 90’s, not every player can handle New York. Fortunately for the Knicks, Junior grew up this way. Where other guys struggle to make the transition from student-athlete to full-time baller, he’s been about that life since day one. Broadway’s bright lights didn’t scare Tim Sr., so you know Junior is well prepared.

 

Shane Larkin – Prospect Profile

It’s the NBA’s bread and butter. The play you run when the shot clock’s winding down. The move that Stockton and Malone rode to the Hall of Fame. It’s the pick and roll, and nobody in the nation ran it better than Miami’s Shane Larkin.

To be a lottery pick at 5’11”, the other numbers better measure up, and Larkin’s got the measurables to get him in the top 14. For starters, Larkin helmed Miami’s pro-style offense as well as anyone in the country, finishing second in the nation in both pick and rolls attempted points per pick and roll. He’s not just a passer, either, ripping threes at a 41% clip last season.

Not a stats guy? Try this: at last month’s pre-Draft combine, Larkin posted the third-highest vertical leap ever. Not just in this draft. Ever. Dude gets up 44 inches, so if you think his size is gonna hold him back, think again. He might not start as high as everyone else, but he’ll finish higher.

 

James Southerland – Prospect Profile

NBA teams don’t need a rotation guy who’s a B- across the board. They don’t need someone to come in and be just like the starter, only a little worse. They want a different look, something the other team has to gameplan for. A defensive stopper, a slashing combo guard. They want a specialist. In James Southerland, they’ll get the long-range sniper.

A Queens native who played youth ball with AND1 rep Lance Stephenson, Southerland shot a blistering 40% from deep in his senior season at Syracuse. With his size (a legit 6’7” without shoes), catch-and-shoot prowess and quick, compact release, that number should hold up in the League.

But “3-and-D” is hot with NBA GMs right now: guys that can catch and shoot while providing rock-solid defense at the other end. And if you look at Jason Kidd, who played into his 40’s on veteran smarts; Danny Green, who went from an afterthought to nearly a Finals MVP; or even Matt Barnes or Jared Dudley, who haven’t seen the rim up close in a few years…defense isn’t athleticism alone. ‘Cuse had the nation’s fifth-ranked defense last season, with Southerland playing 30 minutes per game. He knows team defense, and we know he can shoot the rock; now who wants that impact rotation player again?

Peyton Siva – Prospect Profile

A product of Seattle’s rough Deuce-8 neighborhood, Peyton Siva lived on turf disputed by three separate gangs. His sister was an habitual shoplifter. His older brother joined one of those gangs and started dealing drugs as a teenager. And his father…well, that was the worst part. When he was around, it was clear he was addicted to those drugs. All too often, he wasn’t around at all.

At age 13, with his mother working three jobs and his dad gone missing, Siva taught himself to drive. He wasn’t out to start a new life, just pick up the pieces of his old one. Peyton went out in search of his father, and eventually found him in a drug den with a gun in his lap, contemplating suicide. Peyton talked him out of it, saying he had big plans for life and basketball, and he needed his father to be a part of it. It took some doing—this wasn’t the first trip Peyton Jr. had made to the dope house—but Senior finally agreed, and for good.

Today, Siva is far more than a national champion, two-time Big East Tournament MVP, or any of his other accolades. Now a devout Christian and working with the Louisville Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Siva also improved his average high school grades to become a 2013 Academic All-American. To any NBA teams looking to draft him, you can’t go wrong with this kind of player, or this kind of person.

Isaiah Canaan – Prospect Profile

Relentless to the rim, lights-out shooter, scores off the pick and roll, catch and shoot, pull-up, whatever…sounds like a top ten talent, right? Not always, but one look at Isaiah Canaan makes you wonder what the lottery scouts are missing.

Canaan lists Chris Paul and Damian Lillard as role models for his own game—and he hits them up regularly for advice on his leap to the League—but with his compact frame, he looks more like Ray Felton or Ty Lawson. He certainly shares their physicality, using his bulk to create space and finish at the rim. Plus, opposing guards can’t post him up because he’ll just muscle them away from the bucket.

He’s gotta have weaknesses, right? Well, Canaan played 6 more minutes per game than any of his teammates last season, and coach Steve Prohm relied on him for everything—every big shot, every pick and roll, every dribble drive. Now, critics say his 3.2 turnovers per game make him “turnover-prone,” even though he was actually second on the team in turnovers per minute. As an NBA rookie, Canaan won’t be asked to make every play, and take every impossible shot; so if that’s the best the haters can come up with—that his coach asked him to do everything—sounds like a legit sleeper to us.

What More Can You Say?

What more can you say about Game 7? The aging Spurs used every trick in the book—including some shots from Ginobili and Duncan that belonged in the circus—and once again stood toe to toe with Miami’s thoroughbreds. After the game, Gregg Popovich said they got beat by a “better team.” Funny, it didn’t always seem like it.

What more can you say about LeBron? Guy does everything at both ends of the floor, and last night, the guy who used to be called a choke artist threw up 37 and 12, and buried a couple of late daggers that put the Spurs to bed. Oh, and if you’re keeping track, that’s two rings, four MVP’s, and two Finals MVP’s. Yikes.

And last but not least, what more can you say about this season? From great basketball in NYC, to a soap opera in LA, and a million stories in between…this season had everything. And with the draft coming up next week, you won’t have to wait long for it to start all over again. For now, get on the playground—streetball season is officially on.

FIVE-STAR ANNOUNCEMENT

We love basketball for its flair, artistry and showmanship. But you can’t get to any of the fun stuff without the raw fundamentals, so we’re giving you a chance to learn: right now, you have the chance to win a free ride to the prestigious Five-Star Basketball Camp. Coming up on its 50th year, Five-Star is THE place to learn the skills that elevate your game and let you shine on the courts.

All you have to do is tell us, in 200 words or less, why you deserve to go to Five-Star. Email your applications to and1@catch-nyc.com by this Friday, June 21. There are only three rules: be 10-18 years old, live in the continental United States, and if you’re under 17, get your parents’ permission before entering. Other than that, it’s up to you. Sure it’s summer and you don’t wanna do any more writing…but to get a free ride to Five-Star, you know it’s worth it.

For more information about Five-Star Basketball Camp, including dates and sites, click here.

YOUR FINALS MVP…DANNY GREEN?

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can’t study a little history. Here are just a few names on the list of Finals MVP:

Kareem
Wilt
Magic
Bird
Jordan
Hakeem
Shaq
Kobe

Recognize those names? Of course you do—you probably know them as well as you know your own. Finals MVP has been around since 1969, and in all that time only one winner isn’t either already in the Hall of Fame or heading there soon. (The exception, by the way, is Cedric Maxwell, who copped the big prize with the ’81 Celtics.)

And now, unless Tony Parker drops, like, 75 points one of these next two games, it looks like the unlikeliest of names will join the most exclusive of clubs. Parker (who won it in ’07), Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan (a three-time winner), they’d all fit right in on this list…but Danny Green?

If you saw the game, you know the story; Green went off for six more treys last night to set an all-time record for threes in a single Finals, and there might still be two games left! Both these teams have a Big Three—right now, the team with the edge has a Big Four.

AO, Aaron Owens – Throwback Thursday

The Mix Tape Tour has seen ballers come from all corners—every level of college and pro ball has had a Tour member under contract at one point or another. But we’re pretty sure there’s never been a player who scored 8 points in his entire high school career.

That’s how humble the beginnings were for Aaron Owens, who warmed the bench at Simon Gratz High School in North Philly behind future NBAers Rasheed Wallace and Aaron McKie. Gratz played a big-time national sked, so competition for PT was fierce and Owens couldn’t get burn. But he didn’t run from a challenge, didn’t transfer or find a coach who would make him the main attraction. He stuck with it, and after JuCo, Div. II ball, and pro ball in Israel and the D-League, AO had made a life for himself in basketball.

And a big part of that life has been the Tour; AO debuted in 2000 and has been a fixture ever since.  “I play rec ball for a living. How great is that?” he says with a smile. “It gives me a good feeling to know that I’m reaching so many people because of basketball.

“That’s always something I wanted to do, but it didn’t always look like that was going to be a possibility. Not when I was sitting at the end of Gratz’s bench dreaming about being a star.”

Let’s Go In For The Kill

On Friday, we said we’d learned never to count out the King, even if he hits the canvas. Nine times out of ten when you play team ball to beat some better players on the street, they run it back, get frustrated, and play even worse. Too bad for the Spurs, LeBron’s one in a billion.

Late in the third quarter, Mario Chalmers told LeBron, “Let’s go in for the kill.” As if he needed to be told. The King hadn’t been great to that point, but he broke off a 38-second span the rest of us can only dream of: crazy block on Tiago Splitter, set up a Ray Allen three, deflect a pass, throw down a vicious dunk to put the Heat up 24.

Manu Ginobili: “In the second half, they just ran us over.” Pretty much. Catch a beating like that, and it’s tough to remember you’re supposed to be happy you got a game on the road.