Thursday, September 30, 2010
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010
From the moment he was drafted, there have been questions surrounding New York Knicks rookie Andy Rautins.
Having not been on many experts’ NBA draft boards, there were even doubts that Rautins had an NBA future ahead of him at all. An underwhelming summer league session, in which he shot four for fourteen from behind the arc, did not help his cause.
Nevertheless, the (usually) sharp-shooting marksman from Syracuse entered Knicks training camp last week with a positive attitude and a seemingly clean slate.
The Knicks obviously have faith in the local product, after making him and Stanford wing Landry Fields arguably the most talked about (and surprising) draft selections of all.
Despite not performing up to expectations in summer league, Rautins signed his contract with the team shortly after. With 16 players on the roster (the only position battle appears to be between Patrick Ewing Jr. and Shawne Williams, two training camp invitees), he appears a lock to make the cut.
Rautins has been impressive running the break during training camp. Although normally paired up with second-year point guard Toney Douglas on the practice squad, it is Rautins who often handles the ball.
Showing great first instincts, Rautins can be seen darting passes around the horn to his open teammates if not pulling up for a shot from long range.
Although he’s known for his three-point shooting, Rautins made it clear he’s a multi-faceted player, “Many people know about my ability to shoot the basketball. I think what’s going to separate me from other guys, though, is my ability to push the ball in transition. I’m able to spread the ball on offense. I can do a lot more than people think I can.”
He certainly knows what it will take to set him apart. On the Knicks (and the NBA in general), a fine shooting touch is becoming a dime a dozen. While honing that skill never hurts, it will be his playmaking abilities and defense that help Rautins break out.
At 6’5, Rautins would stand tall as a point guard, able to shoot over smaller guards and use his strong frame to harass them on defense. Often noted as a “combo-guard," Rautins took over full point-guard duty last season as a senior. Assuming the role of team-leader, he finished with averages of 12 points, nearly five assists, and two steals.
In fact, he feels as though his time at Syracuse will make him more comfortable with the Knicks.
“Definitely,” Rautins said with enthusiasm. “D’Antoni’s the type of guy that likes to run up and down the court. That’s the type of system we had at Syracuse, so I’m pretty familiar with it. For a guy like me, that likes to shoot the ball and can do so with range, I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
Citing Raymond Felton and Roger Mason Jr. as early positives influences, Rautins has been taking notes and working hard throughout camp.
The New York media has been taking notice, too. While a term like “bust” was being used to describe Rautins following the draft, he is now being recognized as “crisp” and “strong” during workouts.
Nevertheless, while some may still count him out, Rautins doesn’t appear to be wavering. He already talks about still being a part of the Knicks in the future.
In regards to whether or not he can carry over Syracuse’s winning mentality to the Knicks, Rautins said, “I’m probably going to take a back seat to the vets right now, but eventually hope to assume that leadership position and bring my little leadership intangibles to the table. You know, winning rubs off on people. Hopefully that will be the case.”
It’s certainly a positive that he realizes the importance of such intangibles. Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni brought Rautins and Fields in clearly because they fit the personnel build for this new Knicks squad, not because of any existent (or non-existent) star potential.
While it may take some time for this team to gel on the court, many Knicks, including Rautins, spoke glowingly about team’s existing rapport at media day last Friday.
“We have a great group of guys. I think the chemistry’s already where it needs to be.”
Only time will tell how strong that chemistry proves to be as the Knicks will strive to be a top eight team in the East this season. The team will travel to Milan, Italy to open up its preseason on October 3rd.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Media Day Observations:
- Roger Mason Jr. and Kelenna Azubuike both made an effort of saying they and the rest of their Knicks teammates (whom all joined Amare Stoudemire in a luxury suite after he had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch) were not the cause of the Yankees’ “debacle” 10-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday evening. Hopefully the Knicks will have better luck on the hardwood.
- Patrick Ewing Jr. was outgoing, friendly, and familiar with many members of the New York media, a sure nod to growing up with them around his father.
- Ewing Jr. also made light-hearted talk about growing up in Orlando and enjoying its busy nightlife.
- Amare Stoudemire feels as though the Knicks are a top eight team in the Eastern Conference.
- Multiple Knicks, most glowingly Andy Rautins, conveyed how high team chemistry already was entering the season.
- Alan Hahn of Newsday predicted, “Ronny Turiaf will have his own radio segment before the end of the season. He has a contagious energy that attempts to overpower you like a happy bear hug”
- Turiaf also made it clear he would savoring Mama Turiaf’s cooking all for himself, not sharing with his teammates, when they make the trip to his hometown of France for the preseason.
For more of what the rest of the Knicks had to say, continue reading.
How he's improved this summer: “I’ve been working on my spot shooing, definitely. I think that and my ball handling were two big issues for me last year. Those are the types of things that while I’m already good at it, I’m just trying to perfect them.”
On Eddy Curry: “He’s in great shape. We had out fitness tests yesterday and he did pretty well. I know he’s been working out in New Jersey He’s had a couple of tough seasons off the court, but people forget just a little while ago he was a 20 and 8 type player. “
On team chemistry: “This is definitely a fun team to be around. We’ve got a lot of jokes. I think it’s great that we have a little bit of everything this season and it’s great to build that type of chemistry off the court because it’s sure to help us on the court too.”
Roger Mason Jr.
On taking on a leadership role with the Knicks: “I’ve been in the playoffs four years in a row now. I think just being with pros and a winning organization (the Spurs) has been great for me. Hopefully I can come in and be a leader and instill some of those winning ways in these young guys.”
On his relationship with Knicks rookie Andy Rautins: “He’s just been real receptive. I think it’s important that you give guys a guiding hand when you can. He’s a talented kid who I think has a bright future. I’m willing to give him, and any of the other young guys, any tips I can.”
On the Knicks playoffs hopes: “Man, I usually stay away from predictions, but I think we have the capabilities of doing it. We all really want it, so hopefully we can get it done.”
On being considered the ‘team comedian’: “Our jobs are very serious as it is, even before adding on pressures for ourselves. I just try to have some fun with everyone.”
On his development last season: “It just showed me I can have success out there. It’s more of a confidence thing. Going from being on the bench and not knowing if you can compete on this level, to then having success on the court, it was just a great confidence booster. First and foremost though, now I want to win.”
On how the Knicks match up in the East: “It’s going to be tough. There’s been a power shift all of the sudden. A lot of the great guys from the West came to the East. With LeBron and them in Miami, it’s going to be a very competitive season.
Why he chose to join the Knicks: “There a lot of different faces on this team from the past couple years. I know there’s a couple players that have been here for the last two or three years too. They’re all very competitive. It’s a great atmosphere; very young. We’ve got a great leader, Amare Stoudemire, and a great coach, Mike D’Antoni. I don’t know how many games we’ll win, but I feel like we’ll be much better than last year. I am getting a great vibe that it will be a great season.”
On whether or not he will be ready for the start of the season: “Yeah, I should be. Rehab is going real well. This injury is a process and it takes a while, but I’m getting better and better.”
On enjoying life in N.Y.C.: “Most definitely! I’m happy to be here. The food is great.”
On teammates Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph: “Ronny is a character. I think people will see that. He gets crazy in a good way; he gets very intense. I think the fans will like that because he’s really energetic.
“Randolph, on the other hand, is kind of the cool guy. He thinks he’s real smooth because he’s got those “one-liners”, you know?”
What Knicks fans can expect from Azubuike this season: “I’m really hard-nosed—I give 120% every night. The only way I know how to play is to go hard. Great defense. Great offense—really aggressive play. “
Patrick Ewing Jr.
On returning to the Knicks for another training camp: “I feel like I’ve gotten better. Two years ago, I was obviously younger and not as experienced. I didn’t know what to expect. Fans can expect a lot of hustle, defense, and hopefully a couple of dunks!”
On contributing to the New York community: “It’s very important. Personally, I like going out and doing stuff like that. I’m honored to be asked. I like interacting with the fans and people in general.”
On getting to know his new teammates: “It’s been great. I’ve been hanging out with Landry and Andy everyday and all day! I’ve been talking to a bunch of the guys. I have a lot of fun. I think that it’s going to show on the court because we’ll have that chemistry.”
For more Knicks Media Day 2010 coverage, including features on Ronny Turiaf's animated nature and Andy Rautins' oozing enthusiasm, check back in with Knicks Journal over the course of the weekend.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Knicks Journal was on hand today at the MSG Training Center as the Knicks met with the media for the first time as a team entering the new season.
As a group, the Knicks displayed a great deal of positivity with hopes for success. How high the ceiling is for such success remains to be seen, but many of the Knicks conveyed that the newly assembled group is ready to strongly contend for a playoff spot.
Returning players such as Wilson Chandler and Bill Walker, as well as newcomer Ronny Turiaf, made it known that they and their teammates are ready to bring the Knicks back to its winning ways.
To hear more individual conversations, such as ones pertaining to how Wilson Chandler plans to step up this season, what Andy Rautins is looking to accomplish in his rookie season, and what Ronny Turiaf is planning on sharing(and not sharing, for that matter!) with his teammates during their trip to his hometown of France, check back later.
In the meantime, check in with Tommy Dee from TKB, Seth from Poasting and Toasting, and Alan Hahn of Newsday, all of whom I ran into today. Good guys.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Donnie Walsh announced today that Shawne Williams has been invited to Knicks Training Camp. Adding Williams means the Knicks will enter camp with 16 players, one over the league maximum. If Williams is going to have a shot at making the roster, he will more than likely have to outplay Patrick Ewing Jr., whose contract is reportedly only partially guaranteed.
Ewing Jr. has been busy since rejoining the Knicks (he has been in camp with them before), building rapport with his teammates and making his presence already felt within the community. The son of the greatest player ever to don orange and blue, Ewing Jr. is no stranger to Knicks fans.
Williams, however, is a former draft pick of the Pacers (he was selected 17th overall in 2006). His young career has encountered some major turbulence after some not so smart decisions off the court. He has since found himself out of the league.
While Williams may not have been Walsh's direct pick (Larry Bird was reportedly behind the choice), Walsh has been open to giving former Pacers a chance on the Knicks before.
Last season, Walsh brought another one of the Pacers' draft busts, Jonathan Bender, to New York for a second chance. Bender, who battled back from a career-threatening knee injury, played in 25 contests for the Knicks, but will not be back this season.
Instead, it's time for Williams' opportunity at redemption.
Williams is faced with the obstacle of actually making the roster. At least he can now be relieved to be teaming up (while it may only be temporarily) with Amar'e Stoudemire, after being on the other side of this thunderous Amar'e slam!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
As nearly all the Knicks (the exception being Eddy Curry) get settled into town to prepare for training camp, major questions begin to surface.
The biggest question of all, however, is how good the new-look Knicks will be. While it’s unclear how well the new group will mesh, the pressure for success has been mounting.
One man who knows all about the pressures of Madison Square Garden is Knicks fan-favorite Charles Oakley.
Oakley, who was known for his intensity on the court during his playing days, shared his thoughts earlier this summer before Donnie Walsh and the Knicks officially embarked on their massive recruitment.
“They’re going to get a good player—I just hope who they get will make the team better. Just because you give a guy max money does not necessarily mean you are going to win.”
While Donnie Walsh and the Knicks struck out on most of the summer’s top free agent prizes, the team did come away with Amare Stoudemire, whom flourished under Mike D’Antoni on the Suns.
The Knicks did in fact lure Stoudemire in with a maximum six year contract. As Oakley suggests, that may not be enough to win.
As luck would have it, though, Walsh seemed to agree with Oakley’s notion. After securing Stoudemire, Walsh was diligent in assembling a strong cast that fits D’Antoni’s style of play, and more importantly, can play well around the team’s new leader.
Many of the Knicks have begun working out together on their own in preparation for the new season. With many new faces on the squad, the players can certainly use as much time with one another as possible.
Like many Knicks fans, Oakley is curious to see what the team can do. However, the two-time “All-Defensive Team” member wasn’t thoroughly convinced an offensive system was the best policy.
When asked if D'Antoni can be considered a great coach in the league, Oakley said, "Do you think he's a great coach? I don't know. Players always like something easy. I don’t know why—I can’t judge. “
At the same time, Oakley was open to finding out what will happen. Referring to himself as a fan these days, just like everyone else, he simply said “we’ll have to see what [D’Antoni] does with the talent he gets.”
Nevertheless, would the “Oak-man” ever consider working with the Knicks to instill a stronger defensive presence?
“I’ve been trying to work with the Knicks for years. I would love it. Donnie talks about it, but what can I say? I’ve been getting offers from other teams around the league about coaching now.”
But in the meantime, besides keeping in contact with fans on Twitter, he’s been staying busy, “I’ve been trying to do a couple cooking shows, trying to produce movies. I’m still doing charity work when I have time. I’ve just been trying to stay in the business and stay in shape.”
Whether or not the Knicks of new have the defensive intensity that the Oakley-led Knicks teams of old, one thing is for sure; the Garden will be rocking with excitement for a winning season.
“Aint no doubt—there’s no place better than MSG,” Oakley said. “I just loved to walk in and play, with all the lights and being able to hear all the fans. It’s just a different place. It’s amazing in the Garden.”
Friday, September 10, 2010
Movgov and the Russian national team were on ESPN early Thursday as they fell to Team USA, 89-79. Despite his team’s loss, Movgov displayed the skills (and many intangibles) that he will soon look to provide off the bench for the Knicks this season.
On his way to scoring 13 points, Mozgov showed how effective he can be on the pick and roll, a skill that should prove invaluable to the now David Lee-less Knicks.
Throughout international play this summer, Mozgov’s offense has mostly come from points off the pick and roll and second-chance buckets. He has averaged 12.6 and 3.7 rebounds in nearly 19 minutes per contest for Russia.
While he can box out well, he also seems to lack that killer instinct to make the extra push for the rebound. If he wants to make an impact, Mozgov must rebound the ball.
The Knicks have lacked strong rebounders for years (the exception being David Lee). Although Mozgov can score, and will most likely only benefit from a system like Mike D’Antoni’s, his ability to score is a dime a dozen on this offensive-minded Knicks squad.
With Ronny Turiaf slated to be the starting center, Mozgov has an opportunity to gain meaningful backup minutes. In addition to rebounding the ball, his physical game will be a major factor in his playing time.
The Knicks believe that putting in a player like Mozgov (and Turiaf, for that matter) at center will take the pressure off Amare Stoudemire defensively. Mozgov’s unselfish ability to throw his body around on defense will benefit the Knicks, even if it is solely to commit the hard fouls and take the brunt of the physical contact on both ends of the floor.
Mozgov will almost certainly need time to adjust to the NBA game. Having said that, the young center says he hopes to play “big minutes for the Knicks this season, at 10-15 minutes per game.
Coach D’Antoni remains very optimistic:
“The best thing is if he could progress from a 5-minute guy to a 15-minute guy. If he can warrant being on the floor from 15 to 18 minutes, I think that would be a great first season for him,” D’Antoni told The New York Times, early last week.
Clearly, the Knicks hold Mozgov in high regard as they signed him to a three-year deal worth approximately nine million dollars with the team’s remaining cap space for the summer. If he can mature enough to play anywhere close to 15-18 minutes per game this season, the team may look to use Mozgov in a bigger role over the final two years (and possibly beyond) of his contract.
However, this may be considered wishful thinking, as the Knicks have had some not-so- pleasant experiences with the likes of Frédéric Weis and Darko Miličić in the past.
Nevertheless, without another “future center” in sight for the Knicks, the 24-year-old Mozgov could play a big role for the Knicks if he adjusts to life in the NBA better than his European predecessors.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
"NYKnicks.com: How did you find out you were being traded to the Knicks?
Turiaf: I was in Africa when it became official, but I was made aware of the possibility of a trade happening a few days before I left. Based on what happened the first day of free agency, I knew pretty much what direction things were going. So I got a phone call and an email when it was official, and then I was off to New York.
NYKnicks.com: You had an interesting experience getting to New York for the press conference, right?
Turiaf: I was in the middle of Africa in nowhere. I had to drive seven hours to the nearest airport, wait nine hours in the airport as my flight was leaving at 4:00am. It was a pretty hectic trip but coming here was something that I needed and I am very happy. It didn’t matter how long it took to get to New York."
An interesting snippet about the side of a transaction fans are not usually aware of. It sounds like Turiaf nearly had to jump through hoops just to get to New York.
He will certainly be making that same type of effort on the court this season.
Turiaf's outgoing personality has already helped him embrace his fans and the media, something that is sure to make him a Garden favorite. It is no wonder he is happy to be in New York.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
So much pressure was mounted upon Donnie Walsh over the past two years to bring major talent aboard this summer. Despite striking out on LeBron James and company, the team gracefully received a “B” for their summer efforts.
While the Knicks were praised for upgrading their frontcourt (grade “A”) with Amare Stoudemire and Anthony Randolph, they were also criticized for not improving much on the defensive end. (grade “D”)
However, with Mike D’Antoni as head coach, defense seemingly takes a backseat to offense at times.
What was surprising, though, was that the team only received a “C” for their bench. After losing out on their bids for multiple marquee talents, the Knicks built around the one star they were able to nab, strengthening team depth.
In theory, with better depth comes a stronger bench.
The Knicks do in fact have a lot of talent off the pine, with a mix of experience and young talent ready to sub in.
Highlighting the second unit will be Randolph (who has the potential to produce ala Ben Gordon), assuming D’Antoni begins the season by starting Ronny Turiaf next to Stoudemire in the frontcourt.
Randolph has the ability to score in bunches, and is quick enough to beat slower, taller defenders to the basket. Many expect him to flourish in a system like D’Antoni’s.
The signing of Raymond Felton means that Toney Douglas will return to the bench as well. As Chris Duhon struggled last season, Douglas was thrown into the fire as the Knicks’ starting point guard towards the end of his rookie season.
While he did make some rookie mistakes, Douglas showed promise of a very solid point guard.
Although regarded as a defensive minded player, Douglas was steadily improving as a floor general towards the end of the season, and should have no problem running the floor with his fellow substitutes.
Assuming Wilson Chandler retains his starting position, the services of Kelenna Azubuike (who is recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to be ready by opening night), Roger Mason Jr., and Bill Walker will all be available off the bench too.
While it may take Walker some time to climb over his competition, Azubuike and Mason Jr. are two reliable wings with starting experience.
Azubuike will provide lockdown defense, something this team desperately needs.
Mason Jr. is known for his clutch three-point shooting on the winning Spurs teams of the last two seasons.
Battling it out for the backup center position are Eddy Curry and Timofey Mozgov. Curry is in dire need of a bounce back season as he enters a contract year that very well may dictate the rest of his career. Mozgov has been impressing in international play. He and the Russian national team take on the USA on Thursday.
Filling out the Knicks roster will be rookies Andy Rautins, Landry Fields and possibly Patrick Ewing Jr., who is currently signed to a non-guaranteed contract. Every good squad could use guys like these, as rookies pleasantly learning their way around the NBA (and hopefully enjoying a winning culture) can only add to team chemistry.
As the Knicks look to change their losing ways, the different skills each player provides could very well end up being key to a winning future.
As training camp nears for the Knicks, the questions surrounding the team shift from debating whom will be acquired to who will battling it out for minutes in the rotation.
Anthony Randolph, the Knicks most heralded acquisition besides Amare Stoudemire this summer, will enter training camp unsure of his role. Will he start or provide that spark off the bench?
The Knicks haven't figured it out yet.
Assuming that Randolph is still a Knick when training camp begins (the Knicks’ desperate desire for Rudy Fernandez have dragged Randolph’s name into the ramped rumors), he will be battling Ronny Turiaf for a spot in the starting lineup.
While the question may not be whom the better player is, Randolph will have to prove he is a better fit next to Stoudemire out the gate, as opposed to the defensive-minded Turiaf.
He already has a lot to live up to. Many have been forecasting Randolph as the NBA’s breakout star this season. Whether or not he can live up to his potential in front of the critical New York City media (not to mention, while dealing with the tremendous pressure of helping the Knicks return to the playoffs) remains to be seen.
Randolph’s lengthy figure does help him guard different body types on defense,. However, that same lengthy figure would force Amare Stoudemire to play center, a move that weakens the Knicks defensively.
Turiaf (who will immediately enter camp as one of the Knicks’ stronger defensive presences) appears to have the edge. Pairing him up with Stoudemire creates a nice balance of talent up front. It also allows Stoudemire to play power forward, his natural position.
Randolph would add more firepower to Coach D’Antoni’s offensive punch, but with Stoudemire already starting next to the likes of Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari, that added firepower may be better suited leading the second unit off the bench.
Although Randolph’s offense would undoubtedly be a boost off the bench, so would Turiaf’s intense defense. As Turiaf stands to receive anywhere from 20-30 minutes per game regardless, the Knicks may be better off firing from all cylinders on offense (with Randolph starting) to begin the game in order to get ahead quickly.
Turiaf could always come in during clutch moments over the course of the game as a defensive stopper, leaving way for Randolph to start.
Nevertheless, D’Antoni proved time and time again last season that he will simply give the most minutes to whoever plays well. While carrying out that standard ruffled the feathers of multiple veterans last season, it also seems to be the most sensible thing to do.
If Randolph can find his niche and elevates his game like expected under D’Antoni, the minutes (and perhaps a starting spot) will certainly come his way.