Late last week, Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald and other NBA executives packed the Basketball City facility in New York City to observe a workout from various prospects. Each executive surely had a target or two in mind that they came out to see.
But it was a basketball journeyman who surprisingly stole the show instead.
28 year old point guard Brian Kortovich turned heads by putting on a sure-fire shooting display from all around the gym, even outplaying some of the workout’s top regarded prospects.
Though he’s still trying to break into the NBA, this isn’t his first time around the block. In addition to playing internationally in places like Kuwait and Israel, Kortovich has been in preseason and training camp with local teams like the Knicks and Nets in recent years.
While most NBA fans are in awe of the stardom of players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony, many forget the type of grind and focus it takes for a player just to get into the league in the first place.
Having not given up on the dream just yet, Kortovich recalled what it was like to get a shot with the Knicks in 2010. The guard said, “I got my first shot with New York after I came back from my first year in Israel. I stood out in workouts, and from there, I made the preseason squad. Guys like Donnie Walsh, Mike D’Antoni, and Glen Grunwald all began to know who I was. Doing what I had to do in front of them and getting noticed just renewed my confidence that I can still make a career out of this.”
As Kortovich continues working towards making the right impressions, he stressed being respected as a peer of fellow NBA talents just as much as being recognized by executives. As fate would have it, a popular Knicks star happened to take notice of him during his first Big Apple tryout.
“There were definitely a couple of guys who kind of took me under their wing,” Kortovich revealed. “Especially Amar’e Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf. Those two guys were really cool to me. Patrick Ewing Jr. and I got along well too, because we were both sort of in the same boat during camp. The final spot came down to Pat, Shawne Williams, and me. I thought Pat was going to get it, but obviously the Knicks went with Shawne. It was the right decision, because he played really well.”
Despite not obtaining that highly coveted final spot on the Knicks roster, Kortovich said getting recognized by a player like Stoudemire was well worth the experience.
“STAT never went publicly on record or anything, but I knew I had his endorsement,” the guard admitted.
“I remember at one point early in camp, I knocked down back-to-back game winners during scrimmages off pick and roll screens. Stoudemire was guarding me, and I guess he didn’t think I could knock them down like that, but I did. The next morning, I was getting taped up in the trainer’s room and Stoudemire walked in to ask when I was going to start taking it easy on the first unit. I knew then that I was close.”
Kortovich hasn’t stopped trying to grind his way back. The journeyman spent part of this summer at the IMPACT basketball facility in Las Vegas, where many players worked out during the lockout.
Talking about a recent opportunity that came his way, the guard said, “I had a workout in Vegas in front of some NBA scouts. The guys at IMPACT actually got me in front of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. I was out there with Rashard Lewis. It’s a humbling experience to go shot for shot with a guy who’s coming off an $100 million contract, you know?
“Guys like Rashard, Austin Daye, and Omri Casspi were playing with me in Vegas and it was good to earn their respect. Having that just goes to show you that I’m right there and just have to keep working hard. I’ll get it.”
Kortovich lamented that finally breaking into the NBA isn’t just purely about one’s skill. There are politics involved. Because he didn’t go to a big school (Kortovich attended Manhattan College), the guard wasn’t given the national platform many other young talents are. Thus, catching on with a big-time agent who can find those better opportunities has proven to be difficult. Nevertheless, Kortovich says he may soon be catching on with an agent that represents players like Lewis and the Knicks’ own Raymond Felton.
And as he looks to market himself to NBA squads looking for certain niche players, Kortovich says he should garner comparisons to a former popular NBA talent. The guard shared, “Growing up in Cleveland, I always modeled my game after Mark Price. He was my build, weight, and height. We shoot it similarly and are both crafty in the sense that we get into the lane to create out own shot.”
The 28 year old went on to say he believes he could help an NBA team. He added, “Obviously, point guards create offensive opportunities for others. I run the pick and roll efficiently, but more importantly, can spread the floor. I can help stars like LeBron or Carmelo who need spacing in order to get to the basket. I think if you shoot well enough, there should always be a spot for you on an NBA team.”
And the aforementioned Knicks star, Anthony, seems to agree. After playing against Kortovich during the winter, the Brooklyn native added, “There is no doubt that Brian can play in the NBA. He has the talent, work ethic, and his jump shot is on point. If I were a GM, he'd be on my team."
With so many positive endorsements, Kortovich still has plenty of confidence in his abilities. Focused on keeping the dream alive, he said he is aiming to get a training camp invite from an NBA team this fall.
Assessing his different options, Kortovich asserted, “Plenty of people look at me and just say I should go play in Europe and make a lot of money. To me, this is about getting to the NBA. Have I maybe forfeited some money in the process, continuously getting cut? Sure I did, but the money isn’t what motivates me. I’ve gotten a taste of what the NBA feels like from being in training camp. I’d still do it all over again. Even after all this, I can still say I feel blessed.”
NBA fans can get a feel for Kortovich’s skills as he continues his grind to The Association by checking him out this summer, playing at Rucker Park. You can follow him on Twitter @SmokinACES1.