More than two decades later, Wolves have another chance to draft a Hardaway

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2013 - 11:58 AM

Except for another coach’s advice, the Timberwolves might have drafted Tim Hardaway in 1989. Now they could pick his son, who worked out for them Thursday.

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Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

Photo: Tony Ding, Associated Press

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Tim Hardaway Jr. was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and grew up in Miami because his father played first for the Golden State Warriors and later the Heat.

He just as well could have been born and raised in Minnesota because of a little-known tidbit of Timberwolves draft history.

Hardaway’s father was a strong, stocky point guard out of Texas-El Paso in the 1989 NBA draft, when the expansion Timberwolves chose to build their franchise around that position with the first draft pick in their history.

The Wolves chose UCLA’s Pooh Richardson 10th overall that year for many reasons, one of which was concern over Tim Hardaway Sr.’s knees.

Before draft night, then-Wolves coach Bill Musselman told a reporter that Golden State coach Don Nelson warned him Hardaway’s knees were bad and Musselman said, “And Nellie wouldn’t lie to me.”

Four picks after the Wolves took Richardson, the Warriors and Nelson chose Hardaway’s father, who became a five-time NBA All-Star.

Years later, Nelson only grins when asked about that exchange, but does nothing to refute it.

“Yeah, I think he messed with a lot of people in that draft just so he could get my dad, which was a smart move,” Hardaway Jr. said, referring to Nelson. “I’m glad [the Warriors] picked him and my dad had the legacy he had.”

Twenty-four years later, son rather than father is entering that same NBA draft.

This time, this Hardaway is a 6-6 shooting guard from Michigan who participated with three other prospects at his position in a six-man workout for Timberwolves executives Thursday at Target Center.

Hardaway, Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, California’s Allen Crabbe and Providence’s Ricky Ledo are all 6-5 or taller and can shoot. Those are two of the biggest needs for a Wolves team forced to play small guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea at shooting guard, where their only other real option was 6-6 rookie Alexey Shved.

Caldwell-Pope is a viable candidate if the Wolves use their ninth overall pick in the June 27 draft. The other three likely are options when the Wolves use their second first-round pick, 26th overall.

The team will still likely bring 6-3 combo guard C.J. McCollum from Lehigh, 6-6 swingman Shabazz Muhammad from UCLA, 6-6 Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State and others to Target Center for workouts as the draft approaches.

“Just because we’re so small there, outside of Shved,” Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said of Thursday’s theme. “The other guys — Barea and Luke — are 6-foot players who have to guard Kobe Bryant and those guys. So what you want is a ‘2’ guard [shooting guard] who has size and can shoot the ball.”

Saunders praised all four players’ size and shooting after a 90-minute workout, the first of several individual workouts the team will conduct in the next three weeks.

Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo are considered the top two shooting guards in the draft, but the Wolves almost certainly will have to trade up from No. 9 into one of the top five picks to get a chance to draft either one.“Those guys are up there a lot based on their reputation,” Saunders said about McLemore and Oladipo. “But I really think there are six or seven quality ‘2’s. I really believe that spot probably has the most depth of any spot in the draft. There are more guys there that probably have the ability to get taken pretty high.”

Four of them were at Target Center on Thursday.

“You could sense that out here,” said Hardaway, who helped lead Michigan to the NCAA title game in April. “It’s just a great opportunity to go up against these guys. We’re all out there competing.”

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