Despite the deafening silence of the NBA lockout, it's hard to contain the excitement surrounding the New York Knicks. The team showed strides last season, making progress with a playoff appearance, their resurgence led by new resident star Amar'e Stoudemire.
There's no doubt that New York is a passionate city that will welcome any type of Knicks success with high praise and even bigger celebrations. As STAT and company continue to strive for their time to shine, there's perhaps no one better than Knicks legend John Starks that knows the very type of thrill the current Knicks squad craves.
Starks recently appeared at the Steiner Sports store in Long Island, New York to meet and greet the fans that have supported him for many years. Starks himself was greeted by a tremendous turnout, the type that is surely reserved for New York's most celebrated athletes.
Starks took time out not only to reflect upon and gush about his own experiences in orange and blue, but to share his thoughts and hopes for the Knicks today. Read on to see what Starks thinks about Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert, his summer plans, and the electricity that now fills up the Garden again.
Q: As a player, you experienced some great times with the Knicks, who ended their season by losing to the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. How did you feel about the team's progress?
A: This season was obviously a big stepping stone in the right direction for the Knicks. We were able to get two very solid players in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Throwing Chauncey Billups into the mix, we really stabilized the lead guard position too. Considering where the team was the last six or seven years, it was great to make the playoffs and I think there's a great foundation to build upon now.
Q: Talking about adding pieces to that foundation, what are your thoughts on the team's two draft picks last month, Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson?
A: Well we made two really solid draft picks. I think both Josh and Iman can both step in and play pivotal roles in what the New York Knicks are trying to do this year. Hopefully once the season starts, whenever it starts, the two guys that we've got can come in and be the surprises of the draft just like Landry Fields was this past season.
Q: Not only was Landry Fields' production and progress a surprise, but so was his starting role with the team. There's been talk that Iman was drafted higher by the Knicks than originally projected, so where do you see him fitting in? Will he be able to play a big role for the team, even as a rookie?
A: I think so. Iman's a versatile guard that can defend multiple positions. He's definitely a big guard who can obviously play in different spots himself too. You're always looking for a guy who can defend and put the ball in the basket. He's proved he can do that. As a young player, he's obviously got a lot to learn, but it's clear he has some great veterans on this team to take things from going forward.
Q: Let's talk about your own summer plans for a minute. You've got a big event coming up for the John Starks Foundation, don't you?
A: That's right. We have our big golf tournament that will take place on September 13. That's one of our biggest fundraising events. I always get excited when I think about where the foundation started and where it is today. I like to take time out to thank all of the foundation's supporters that continue to help teens realize their dreams by being able to go to college. It's all about continuing to grow and get money out there for these kids to go to school.
Q: I heard you'll be participating in "Basketball without Borders" in China later this summer as well. Tell me a bit about your involvement.
A: Well normally, I serve as an ambassador for the NBA during the clinics and events they do, and I don't expect my role to change. China is just an incredible place to go visit and it'll be great to grow the presence of the game of basketball. It's something that the league does every year—going beyond the United States to grow the game. In China, the NBA has become the No. 1 sport, surpassing soccer, which is huge. It's a big market for the NBA and they just want to do everything they can to continue to grow.
Q: New York has always been a big local market as well. During your time as a Knick, you and your teammates obviously ignited the crowds with many successes, including an NBA Finals appearance in 1994. How do you feel the level of excitement back then compares to where it was during the playoffs this season?
A: The excitement is definitely back. It's always nice to see the Garden lit up like it was last season. The enthusiasm is back, and so is the electricity. The team is something that the fans can certainly be proud of again. As a former player, it's nice to see the energy back inside that building. I'll say that I'm definitely very excited about the upcoming season, whenever it does get underway.
Q: Before I let you go, I have to mention that as I look around here today, it's clear that the fans' loyalty, support and excitement around a celebrated Knick like yourself has never once wavered.
A: No question! I've been very blessed to play for one of the greatest franchises ever in existence in the New York Knicks. So many fans are passionate about the Knicks. They are very knowledgeable. In fact, the entire tri-state area has some great sports fans in general.
For me personally, I've been able to come in here, be successful, and have the fans really support me. Even through my ups and downs, the fans have been behind me. It's been a great journey for me to experience that same support as a player, and then now, to still see so much appreciation for the way I played the game of basketball.