MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Hardaway Jr.’s return to the lineup will directly impact Jeff Hornacek’s rotation and could mean fewer minutes for Michael Beasley, who has been one of the Knicks most reliable players the last few weeks.
“God has granted me the serenity,” Beasley said prior to Friday’s game against the Timberwolves. “I’m OK with what doesn’t happen. I can control what I can and go from there.”
Hardaway returned on Friday after missing 20 games with a stress injury in his left leg. The Knicks went 8-12 without Hardaway, who was signed to a $71 million free agent contract last summer. They lost last night, falling to the Wolves, 118-108. He had 16 points in 24 minutes.
Lance Thomas has started in place of Hardaway with Courtney Lee moving to shooting guard. Hornacek kept that lineup on Friday and decided to use Hardaway as a back-up in order to monitor his minutes.
However, the plan calls for Hardaway to eventually return to the starting lineup. In all likelihood, Lee would move to small forward and Thomas would return to the bench.
Hornacek made it clear that playing either Thomas or Beasley will be judged on a game to game basis, and if the coach is looking for a more defensive minded forward off the bench, Beasley would be the odd man out.
“We’ve got multiple guys that can play,” Hornacek said. “Every guy on this team if we put him out there can probably lend something, but we’ve got to figure out if we’re going to focus on defense and continue that, some nights it might be Lance.
“If it’s a game, all of the sudden the game is going along and we’re dying, not getting some points, then we’ve got to go with Mike. I know some of those guys, Lance, obviously doesn’t — nobody likes to be labeled as one type of player, but that’s just what it is, what their strengths are. Sometimes we’ve got to use their strengths. If we have one guy that’s stronger in one area then we do that.”
Beasley, who scored 13 points in 15 minutes last night, at times carried the Knicks offensively during the 20 games Hardaway was sidelined. The veteran 6-foot-8 forward averaged 16.6 points on 52.7 percent shooting over 23.1 minutes. Beasley’s best performance was his 32-point outburst in a win over the Boston Celtics. Last week, he scored 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting in an overtime loss to Miami and 26 in Wednesday’s double overtime loss to Chicago.
When asked if he would be surprised if his minutes were cut, Beasley told reporters: “Honestly, no. I’m used to it at this point. Just doing what the team needs, doing what the teams asks. If they don’t ask for anything I guess I don’t do anything.”
Beasley signed a free agent contract in August and has become something of a cult hero to Knick fans for his off-beat personality and scoring prowess. Beasley has referred to himself as the left-handed Carmelo Anthony.
“I enjoy playing basketball,” Beasley said. “That’s the bottom line, no matter who’s in, no matter who’s out. Like I said, I’m used to dramatic change, I’m used to ups and downs. If anything happens to where I don’t play anymore I can’t cry about it. Just got to look forward to tomorrow, get my work in, keep my conditioning up.”
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