His first tenure with the Knicks ended on the night of the 2015 N.B.A. draft. He was with two teammates watching the event at Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine — the Midtown Manhattan restaurant owned by the Knicks legend Walt Frazier — when he received a call. Hardaway stepped outside to take it, only to hear Phil Jackson, the team president, and General Manager Steve Mills tell him he had been traded. They wished him the best, he recalled, and some 30 seconds later the trade was made public. He had been dealt to the Hawks for a first-round pick. Hardaway walked back into the restaurant, grabbed his belongings and went home.
The deal hurt. He spent the next few weeks processing his fate. The Knicks had taken him 24th over all in 2013 and he averaged double-digit scoring over his first two seasons. He was not a star, but he’d shown promise.
In Atlanta, he would have to start anew. Hardaway had suffered a right wrist injury late in the 2014-15 season and had not fully recovered. His summer workouts were affected, and he arrived to his new team out of shape.
Worse yet, in a preseason meeting his new coach, Mike Budenholzer, laid out the team’s plan: Use the first 25…