Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

As a Knicks assistant coach in the 1990s, Jeff Nix had a front row seat for the last era of sustained success at Madison Square Garden. 

"Every night was electric. I don't think there will be anything in my life that will replace the feeling of walking out of the tunnel at the Garden for a game," Nix, a New York assistant from 1992-2000, said this week. "The place was buzzing. I get goosebumps talking about it right now."

Nix said the crowd at MSG was intense every night in that era, rooting (or booing) teams with legitimate championship aspirations. But the building had a distinct feel on certain nights. 

"Whether it was No. 23 or No. 45 -- it didn't really matter what number he had -- when Michael Jordan showed up, the energy was at a whole different level," Nix said. "The buzz at the Garden when Jordan would come out -- the Bulls and that roadshow - it was just different."

 

That Knicks era may get a cameo or two over the next few weeks during ESPN's 10-part documentary on Jordan. The series -- dubbed The Last Dance -- is focused on Jordan and his last championship season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98. 

Jordan's Bulls and the Knicks, of course, had so many memorable battles in the '90s, but they didn't meet in the 1997-98 playoffs. Patrick Ewing went down with a broken wrist in mid-December. Jeff Van Gundy & Co. adjusted on the fly, made the playoffs but ultimately fell short of another showdown with Jordan and the Bulls. 

Below, Nix talks about some of his memories of that team -- and that Knicks era -- ahead of the premiere of ESPN's documentary on Sunday. 

COMMITMENT TO WINNING 

When Ewing broke his wrist on an alley-oop attempt in Milwaukee in late December, the Knicks were 15-10, seemingly primed for another deep playoff run. They returned the core of a team that won 57 games the previous season. The Ewing injury, obviously, dampened outside expectations. But Van Gundy's message to the team in the aftermath was consistent. 

"He said, 'Hey, we have enough talent to win. We're going to have to make some changes, make some adjustments, we're going to have to move some guys around. But we have enough talent,'" Nix said. "….At the time, he was put in a position that was so difficult. He almost had to reinvent us. Then we were just fighting for our lives every night to try and scratch and claw wins to try to get into the playoffs. 

"Everybody just kind of accepted it. 'This is the reality of what we have and we're going to go out every day and make the best of it.' 

"From my eight years on the coaching side on the Knicks, collectively for all eight years but specifically when I look at this season, I don't think I was ever around a group of guys that put winning above everything else like they did. In all my eight years on the coaching side, from Ewing all the way on down to the 15th guy on the bench, winning was important.

"That year, we had three guys that played 82 games -- (Allan) Houston, (Charlie) Ward and (John) Starks. In today's world, playing 82 games is like a sin. Chris Mills played 80 games that season, (Charles) Oakley played 79. We just had a great group of guys that wanted to win, that was most the most important thing. It wasn't, 'let's get through this practice so I can get to my two or three other things that interest me - my car dealership, my record labels, whatever.' It was about the New York Knicks and winning games."

LARRY JOHNSON, GALVANIZING FORCE

All these years later, Larry Johnson's most memorable moment as a Knick was the four-point play in the final seconds of Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals that helped catapult the Knicks to the Finals. 

But inside the locker room, Johnson left his mark as a relentless optimist who helped galvanize that 97-98 team.  

"He was the best teammate I've ever been around," Nix said. "Without being loud or obnoxious he'd just grab one of his teammates, pull him to the side and he was always so positive. 'Hey, hang in there, we're going to get through this' or 'Hey, you didn't shoot the ball well last night, let's get 100 shots up and I'm rebounding for you. Not the coach, not the equipment guy, I'm rebounding for you.'

"Larry was a master in our locker room. He was the most positive guy and probably the best teammate I've seen in my life. He made such a difference from a cultural standpoint. He always had a concern for his teammates and that carried over for everyone. Larry kind of brought everybody up a level.

"When Patrick went down, Larry was probably the one guy that could rally the troops and galvanize us, saying, 'Hey, guys we're going to be OK. We're OK.'" 

On the court, Nix recalls that the paint opened up for Johnson after Ewing went down. He averaged 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds overall in 1997-98 and 18 points per game that postseason.  

CHARLIE WARD, QUIET LEADER 

That Knicks team had big personalities like Oakley, John Starks and Johnson, but it was led by one of the more understated players on the team: Charlie Ward

"With Charlie, he was a Heisman Trophy winner, star quarterback, and you'd think that he'd be a vocal leader. One of those 'rah-rah' guys," Nix said. "But Charlie was so quiet. He didn't say much at all. But he led by example and the players knew that Charlie was in charge. It was amazing to me. It opened my eyes to watching and learning different ways to lead. 

"You have the 'rah-rah' leader, you have the locker room leader and then you have someone like Charlie: just a low-key personality, highly competitive and led by example. It seemed like every year, we brought point guards in and it was, 'OK, this guy is going to beat Charlie out' and he never beat him out. Charlie just had such unbelievable will like, 'OK. Just keep bringing guys in. I'm just going to keep beating them out every year.'"

Ward was also impactful on the court. In the 1998 postseason, he averaged career-highs in steals, assists and 3-point percentage. 

VAN GUNDY/MOURNING/LJ 

The Knicks won 57 games the previous season but lost in the playoffs to Miami in a series marred by a controversial brawl in Game 5. Five Knicks were suspended for the brawl and the club lost the series in seven games after leading, 3-1. As Nix recalls, some of the animosity from that series carried over to New York's first-round matchup with Miami in 1998. That bad blood fueled another fight -- this one in the closing moments of Game 4. Alonzo Mourning and Johnson threw punches at one another and Van Gundy famously hung on to one of Mourning's legs in an attempt to separate the players. 

"The last thing he wanted to have happened was that," said Nix, who worked for New York in coaching or a front office role from 1992-2007. "No one wanted to see Larry and Mourning get into that and lose players for the next game. No one wants to see any of that stuff happen but it happened and it was a spontaneous reaction from Jeff. And that's Jeff, he's totally invested in the team. He's fully committed to his players. It's all about team. There's nothing that he ever did that said, 'it's about me.' It was just about the team. That was just another example."  

Video: Ian Begley talks Ntilikina's future with the Knicks

AFTERMATH 

The Knicks beat Miami in five games in the first round, but lost in five games to Indiana in the second round. Ewing returned in Game 2 of the Pacers series after missing more than four months, but his timing was off. With Ewing working off the rust, New York didn't have enough to get past Reggie Miller & Co. 

"We just kind of ran out of gas. Patrick came back and did the best he could in the four games he played. But clearly his shooting -- he shot 36 percent and 60 percent from the free-throw line -- coming off that wrist injury, he gave everything he had, it's just hard. 

"But I'll always remember that team as a great group of guys because they showed such resilience as individuals and as a team: to see your star player go down, clearly everybody wants to rally around Patrick, but they also rallied around each other. And they elevated each other's game. It was remarkable."

FROM MICHAEL JORDAN TO BILLY JOEL, GARDEN BRINGS OUT EVERYONE'S BEST 

Something else Nix will always remember? The crowds at the Garden during that era. Despite all of the losing during the last six seasons, there have been a few nights each year when MSG is loud and electric. But back then, it was intense and intimidating every game. 

"When you walked out the tunnel to the middle of the court -- the old tunnel -- the feeling you would get (is indescribable)… Here I am as an assistant coach. I can't imagine what it felt like for the players. It would give you chills. The crowd was unbelievable. There was just a feeling like, 'This is the Garden.' It was the winning, the fans are knowledgeable. They're passionate as hell. And they're going to let you know how they feel. You're going to get an honest reaction at the Garden. There's nothing phony about it.

"This is where I get back to how much respect I had for the guys we had when I was on the coaching side. They had to bring, not only their 'A' game because the crowd expected it and the people paying top dollar expected you to give a great effort, but they also knew that the opponent was coming in there and wanted to play his best game of the year individually because it was the Garden. 

"Our guys understood that and I think they rose to that occasion every night, which is really, really hard to do knowing that you can't just show up at the Garden and say, 'Hey, we're going to win because we're playing at home.' You knew that you were going to get your opponent's best shot. They could be on a four-game road trip and it's the last game of the road trip, but it's the Garden, and they're bringing it. And that goes for Bon Jovi, that goes for Billy Joel, that goes for Bruce Springsteen, that goes for anybody that comes through that building. The circus, hell, the dog show, the poodles bring their best effort. There's something about that building that, if it's your home court, you've got to work hard to protect it. You've got to be ready to go because your opponents are bringing it. And our guys were, every night."

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Feb 8, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks owner James Dolan watches during the fourth quarter between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 8, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks owner James Dolan watches during the fourth quarter between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

All across the United States -- and even overseas -- protests against police brutality and racial injustice have been taking place following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. The sports world has been lending their voice to the cause, with the likes of prominent athletes in LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Derek Jeter among them.

There have also been teams doing the same. However, the Knicks and Spurs are the only two teams that haven't released an official statement on the matter. San Antonio's head coach Gregg Popovich did, however, discuss the matter in an interview. 

According to ESPN's Pablo Torre, Knicks players and employees are "furious" no statement has been made by ownership. Owner James Dolan addressed that frustration in a Madison Square Garden Company-wide e-mail that SNY has obtained, and it probably didn't help curb it. 

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There's been a lot of buzz recently about the Knicks and LaMelo Ball, arguably the top guard prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft.

But what at the odds that the Knicks actually land him?

SNY's Maria Marino and Chris Williamson discuss during the latest edition of What are the Odds?

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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

The NBA season has been suspended since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and discussions are ongoing about the potential resumption of the season.

Here's the latest...

 

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Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (Treated Image by SNY)
Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (Treated Image by SNY)

The Knicks announced on Friday afternoon that they have reopened their training facility in Westchester county for voluntary player workouts.

"As the safety of our players and staff remains our priority, we will continue to follow the guidelines established by the State of New York and the NBA," the Knicks said in a brief statement.

The Knicks join the Nets in reopening their training facilities, as the Nets did so on Tuesday. 

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Knicks president Leon Rose (Treated Image by SNY)
Knicks president Leon Rose (Treated Image by SNY)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

The Knicks were 24 games under .500 when the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season. When your record is that bad, your team usually has several significant holes to fill.

The obvious one for New York this season was outside shooting. That's why some in the organization see finding a lead guard who can knock down a shot as a priority for the offseason.

But that's not the only area that could use an upgrade.

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Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

If you want to gain insight about LaMelo Ball's season in Australia, you talk to Corey 'Homicide' Williams. As an analyst for the National Basketball League, Williams watched Ball closely last season. He spent time around the Ball's team and the teams and coaches competing against the 18-year-old.

And Williams' basketball opinions are informed.

This isn't like asking Bob Costas to break down a players' strengths and weaknesses. (No disrespect intended to Bob Costas).

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Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson is expected to interview for the Knicks' head coaching position, SNY sources confirm.

Atkinson, interim head coach Mike Miller and Tom Thibodeau are among the candidates who will get consideration for the job. 

"That's the plan," one source with knowledge of the proceedings said of Atkinson and the Knicks. 

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Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Knicks president Leon Rose officially announced additions to his front office on Wednesday. 

Brock Aller will be Rose's vice president of basketball and strategic planning, Walt Perrin will be an assistant general manager overseeing college scouting, and Frank Zanin will be an assistant general manager overseeing pro scouting. 

The Knicks also announced that GM Scott Perry has agreed to a one-year extension for 2020-21 to remain in that role. 

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 (Russell Isabella)
(Russell Isabella)

The Knicks weren't able to land any high-profile free agents this past summer, which led to now ex-team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry signing a group of veterans to short, expendable deals. 

Now, with a new vision in the front office with Leon Rose the team president, those players -- and even some others -- might be on the chopping block. 

In this series, we'll look at whether or not the Knicks should let these players stay -- or let them walk. We'll focus this time on center Taj Gibson:

Tags: Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson
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Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Since the inception of the team in 1946, the Knicks have taken fans on a wild ride that has included eight trips to the NBA Finals, two championships, some runs of dominance, and some dry spells.

When it comes to putting together the Knicks' All-Time team, some of the names can be added to the roster by simply glancing up at the rafters at Madison Square Garden. Other players are much tougher to decide on, and choosing who's on the first team and the second team is no picnic.

Without further ado...

Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Danny Abriano
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SNY's NBA Insider Ian Begley looks at the development of Knicks forward Kevin Knox and reveals what some scouts have said about his future.

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Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (Treated Image by SNY)
Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (Treated Image by SNY)

The Knicks have given their fans tons of incredible moments through the years, including two NBA titles, six other trips to the NBA Finals, and performances from stars such as Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, and Carmelo Anthony.

Here are nine of the best moments in Knicks history...

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Mar 2, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Georgetown Hoyas head coach Patrick Ewing looks on against the Seton Hall Pirates during the first half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Mar 2, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Georgetown Hoyas head coach Patrick Ewing looks on against the Seton Hall Pirates during the first half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Knicks legend and current Georgetown men's basketball head coach Patrick Ewing has tested positive for coronavirus, the school announced in a statement on Friday evening. 

"I want to share that I have tested positive for COVID-19. The virus is serious and should not be taken lightly," Ewing said. "I want to encourage everyone to stay safe and take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Now more than ever, I want to thank the healthcare workers and everyone on the front lines. I'll be fine and we will all get through this."

Georgetown also announced in the statement that Ewing is isolated at a local hospital, and that he is the only member of the men's basketball program to test positive for the virus. 

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Dec 7, 2018; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Spire Institute guard LaMelo Ball warms up prior to facing Bella Vista Prep at Chaparral High School. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports (Joe Camporeale)
Dec 7, 2018; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Spire Institute guard LaMelo Ball warms up prior to facing Bella Vista Prep at Chaparral High School. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports (Joe Camporeale)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Here's our weekly Knicks mailbag with SNY's NBA Insider Ian Begley...


We got a few questions about LaMelo Ball and the possibility of the Knicks moving up in the draft: 

@PrimeCarmelo: Do you think the Knicks trade up for Lamelo if they don't move up in the lottery?

@Jiggyx_1: How would the lottery results for this draft affect our motivation to trade up?? Is there a specific player they key in on?? How likely is that?

This shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed the 2020 draft class, but the Knicks have LaMelo Ball ranked as the top point guard on their draft board. One opposing scout said he assumed most teams have Ball at the top. But since @PrimeCarmelo asked specifically about LaMelo, it's worth pointing out that Knicks people think highly of the young guard. 

Tags: Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Ian Begley
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Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret the Ball family wants to see LaMelo in a Knicks uniform when the 2020 NBA Draft ends. 

LaVar Ball has made that very clear recently, saying that his son would be a perfect fit under the bright city lights in New York. 

And according to SNY's Ian Begley, LaVar isn't the only one who wants to see the 6-foot-7 guard in blue and orange next season. 

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Feb 12, 2020; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller coaches against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Feb 12, 2020; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks interim head coach Mike Miller coaches against the Washington Wizards during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

As the NBA is nearing a potential return to its 2020 season, some Knicks players have been told recently to be ready to report to train in early June, sources tell SNY's Ian Begley. However, where that exact location will be is still a mystery. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement Sunday that stated all professional sports teams are now allowed to begin training camps in the state could impact this development for the Knicks. As long as it adheres to health protocols, Cuomo is saying teams like the Knicks can restart their process of getting back to the season.

While that might make sense for all the Knicks to return to New York, there is the ESPN report that says some teams from regions with more regulations amid this coronavirus pandemic, like the Big Apple, are wondering if they could head down to Walt Disney World in Orlando -- the proposed destination for NBA resumption -- right away. 

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Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks have LaMelo Ball -- who is expected to go early in the 2020 NBA Draft -- as the top-rated point guard on their board, a source confirmed to SNY's Ian Begley.

"I'd guess most teams do," an opposing scout said of the 18-year-old, who played in the NBL in Australia this past season, averaging 17.0 points. 6.8 assists, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals while playing 31.3 minutes per game in 12 games played for Illawara.

The New York Post first reported the news Saturday morning.

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Mar 2, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Georgetown Hoyas head coach Patrick Ewing looks on against the Seton Hall Pirates during the first half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Mar 2, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Georgetown Hoyas head coach Patrick Ewing looks on against the Seton Hall Pirates during the first half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

Knicks legend and current Georgetown men's basketball head coach Patrick Ewing has tested positive for coronavirus, the school announced in a statement on Friday evening. 

"I want to share that I have tested positive for COVID-19. The virus is serious and should not be taken lightly," Ewing said. "I want to encourage everyone to stay safe and take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Now more than ever, I want to thank the healthcare workers and everyone on the front lines. I'll be fine and we will all get through this."

Georgetown also announced in the statement that Ewing is isolated at a local hospital, and that he is the only member of the men's basketball program to test positive for the virus. 

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Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (Treated Image by SNY)
Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks (Treated Image by SNY)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

As Knicks president Leon Rose continues to build his team off the court, one of the things Tom Thibodeau recently talked about was the size of team staffs in the modern NBA. 

"Your assistant coaches, your player development guys, your interns, your video guys, your analytics people, your sports scientists, your strength and conditioning people. It's a very large amount of people," Thibodeau, a potential Knicks coaching candidate, said on The Woj Pod with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. "So everyone has to be communicating and working together to make the best possible decision."

Rose and the Knicks have received praise from opposing execs and scouts for adding Brock Aller, Walt Perrin and Frank Zanin to their front office thus far. The way rivals have talked about all three men leads you to believe the Knicks can work together to, as Thibodeau says, make the best decision possible -- and avoid the factions that plagued previous Knicks administrations. 

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Kristaps Porzingis (Kevin Jairaj)
Kristaps Porzingis (Kevin Jairaj)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

In an interview with WFAN's Moose and Maggie on Wednesday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he was stunned when former Knick Kristaps Porzingis was made available via trade in 2019.

"Very (shocked). It happens in the NBA," Cuban said in the interview.

"It's like the James Harden trade. James Harden got traded from OKC to the Rockets and I'm like, 'Damn, why didn't we even get that offered to us? We weren't in the mix, nobody was. It was Just like one phone call and the Rockets said, 'Yes.' And this was our phone call."

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Dec 1, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports (Harrison Barden)
Dec 1, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau reacts during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports (Harrison Barden)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Knicks candidate Tom Thibodeau joined ESPN's The Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski and talked about what he learned from traveling around and observing different teams over the past NBA season.

One aspect that stuck out to him? How teams manage practices in the era of load management.

"It's interesting because the way everyone's managing with load management and where your team is, sports scientists, it's different," Thibodeau said on the podcast. "If your team is young and you're in a rebuild, you're probably practicing more than an older veteran team. In some cases where the team is mixed, there's almost two practices going on in one, where your young guys are getting the work that they need, and the older vets might be in the weight room getting strength and conditioning and then they flip it and then the vets will get their work… and then they come together for a short period of time to do something together at the end and maybe they'll watch film together at the end."

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Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Leon Rose continued to reshape the Knicks front office this week by adding Walt Perrin and Frank Zanin as assistant general managers, league sources said.

Perrin will be in charge of college scouting and Zanin will oversee pro personnel.

Here are notes on both executives...

Tags: Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Kristaps Porzingis, Ian Begley
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RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

RJ Barrett says he's taking some important lessons from The Last Dance, ESPN's 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan

"I kind of grew up after all this happened. But for me, it's cool to be able to listen to Mike speak and hear how he thinks," Barrett said in an interview on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt that aired Monday night. "'Cause to me, he was kind of this machine. So to see, whether it's how he came into a franchise and completely changed the culture, or his leadership abilities, his work ethic -- I'm soaking it all in."

Barrett was born in 2000. So he didn't see any of Jordan's six NBA titles. But he says his father, former St. John's star Rowan Barrett, told him to study Jordan growing up. 

Tags: RJ Barrett, Ian Begley
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Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) looks on after the Lakers defeat of the Utah Jazz 101-96 at Staples Center in Bryant's final game of his career. Bryant scored 60 points in the game. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Hanashiro)
Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) looks on after the Lakers defeat of the Utah Jazz 101-96 at Staples Center in Bryant's final game of his career. Bryant scored 60 points in the game. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Hanashiro)

New Knicks front office hire Frank Zanin played against the late Kobe Bryant when the two were at rival high schools in the Philadelphia area, and Bryant once came out in support of Zanin's future as an NBA executive.

"Hope to see you in the GM seat for the @BrooklynNets @F1E2Z you have a great basketball mind and it's time you get your shot #gogetit," Bryant tweeted on Jan. 26, 2016

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Apr 6, 2017; New York, NY, USA; General view during pre game introductions before a game between the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 6, 2017; New York, NY, USA; General view during pre game introductions before a game between the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

A day after adding Walt Perrin as assistant GM, Knicks president Leon Rose has made another front office addition.

New York is hiring Frank Zanin in a front office role, league sources confirmed to SNY's Ian Begley.

Zanin had been working as a scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2016, and has also worked as an assistant GM for the Brooklyn Nets.

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Walt Perrin (Utah Jazz on YouTube)
Walt Perrin (Utah Jazz on YouTube)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

The Knicks are expected to add longtime Utah Jazz executive Walt Perrin to the front office.

Perrin is currently the Vice President of Player Personnel for Utah, where he has spent the past 19 seasons, beginning in a lead scouting role.

In addition to Perrin, Knicks president Leon Rose has hired Brock Aller from the Cleveland Cavaliers in an executive vice president role that will cover a wide range of areas for the Knicks. Rose has also retained Scott Perry as his general manager for the 2020-21 season.

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Knicks president Leon Rose (Treated Image by SNY)
Knicks president Leon Rose (Treated Image by SNY)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Here's our weekly Knicks mailbag with SNY's NBA Insider Ian Begley...


@Boujeecoujee: Are the Knicks in a relatively good position with the salary cap projected to go down, and a lot of younger assets under contract for 2-3 years along with stockpiling picks? Could this stoppage potentially help a rebuild in some ways compared to other teams

The short answer? A cap decrease could help the Knicks. But it's unclear how or if it will at this point.

Tags: Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, Ian Begley
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Giannis Antetokounmpo (Jerome Miron)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Jerome Miron)

The Knicks will be among teams looking deeply into Giannis Antetokounmpo's market in free agency following the 2020-21 season. But they might have missed their shot already with arguably the best player in the NBA because of their relationship with his older brother, Thanasis. 

In 2013, the Knicks drafted Thanasis in the second round with the 51st overall pick. But the elder Antetokounmpo never made a splash in New York, playing only two games (on a 10-day contract) over two years before being released. He would quickly join his brother on the Bucks. 

Then, in 2015, Antetokounmpo was vocal about how the Knicks didn't give his brother a fair chance at making it in the league when the Bucks and Knicks were playing in London. That right there, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman, could definitely hurt the Knicks' chances at signing him. 

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SNY NBA Insider Ian Begley analyzes both sides of the Knicks' point guard future to decide if drafting or signing one is the best option.

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SNY NBA Insider Ian Begley looks at the possibility of the Knicks trading RJ Barrett in a potential deal for Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.

Earlier this season, Oladipo and the Pacers had brief talks about a potential extension, according to Begley, which didn't come to fruition.

That's one reason some teams are keeping an eye on the Pacers -- who have big money committed to several players -- regarding potential trades.

Begley delves into if a trade involving Barrett and Oladipo is possible above.

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The Knicks haven't had the type of success team-wise in the last three decades that's resulted in an NBA title. Though, the 1990s did see them in the playoffs every year with two NBA Finals appearances. Since the 2000-01 season, things have been much worse, as the Knicks have won just one playoff series.

They have had some individual stars on the roster over the years, though, with players like Patrick Ewing, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Kristaps Porzingis among other big names. 

But through the ups and downs of the last three decades, there have been some players who were underrated during their time with the Knicks. 

Here's a list of seven of the most underrated Knicks of the last 30 years, with some honorable mentions as well…

Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis
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 (Russell Isabella)
(Russell Isabella)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Knicks center and Brooklyn native Taj Gibson provided lunch on Thursday to NYCHA workers at the Ingersoll Houses, where he was raised. 

"Thank you. Your support, your hard work every day goes unnoticed. But we see it," Gibson said at the event in Fort Greene, per WABC. "We really appreciate you."

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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

One of the questions hanging over pro sports leagues grappling with the decision to play games amid the coronavirus is: how much of a risk are we willing to take to get back on the field of play?

This is something the NBA -- players and executives -- are thinking about as they sift through scenarios to resume the 2019-20 season.

Adam Silver said on a conference call with players last week that there is no need for a final decision on the season this month, sources confirmed to SNY. The decision-making window was first reported by ESPN.

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SNY NBA Insider Ian Begley considers the possibility of the Knicks hiring Mark Jackson to fill the head coaching job in New York.

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Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Lavar Ball has not been shy about anything ever, and one of the things he's talked up is how the Knicks are a perfect fit for his son, LaMelo, who declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on April 29.

Speaking Wednesday on the Load Management podcast, Lavar continued to talk about the potential of LaMelo going to the Knicks. And he added his sons and LaMelo's brothers, Lonzo and LiAngelo, into the equation for good measure.

"I think so," the elder Ball said about the Knicks being a great fit for LaMelo. "The bright lights, East Coast. If everything lines up right, the Knicks get the first pick and get LaMelo and LiAngelo with him and somehow get Lonzo in the long run. Shoot - The Triple B's. The Ball Brothers on Broadway."

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Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain

Did you know the Knicks almost landed legendary center Wilt Chamberlain

The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov uncovered a New York Times gem on Tuesday, where he found an article from 1975 that chronicled the Knicks' failed attempt at trying to add a then-39-year-old Chamberlain. 

The story goes like this: MSG president Mike Burke and GM Eddie Donovan were out seeking a new center to add to their team before the 1975-76 season began. While they had other players like Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and George McGinnis in mind, they couldn't make it happen. So outside the box thinking brought Chamberlain to the table, as the Knicks were looking to bring him out of retirement. 

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Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson has already established himself as an elite presence in the paint on both sides of the ball. And his potential would go through the roof if he developed a legit outside shot.

It seems like he might be doing just that during the coronavirus pause.

Robinson, in a video that is reportedly from Tuesday, is seen draining a straightaway three. He then displays some slick ball-handling before hitting a step-back three. 

Tags: Mitchell Robinson, Danny Abriano
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 (Bob Donnan)
(Bob Donnan)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

If the NBA cancels the rest of the regular season and resumes with a 16-team playoff format, the Knicks will finish with the sixth-worst record in the NBA.

That would give New York a nine percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick and a 36 percent chance of getting a pick in the top four in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Obviously, the Knicks could also slide back in the lottery. If they finish with the sixth-worst record, New York could move all the way back to ninth depending on how the ping pong balls bounce. (Technically, there is a very small chance that they'd slide back to 10th).

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Oct 23, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the press during the 2023 NB All-Star announcement at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports (Chris Nicoll)
Oct 23, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the press during the 2023 NB All-Star announcement at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports (Chris Nicoll)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a call with the Board of Governors on Tuesday, and it sounds like momentum is continuing to build toward the NBA season resuming play.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, members left the call "feeling positive" about the NBA starting games again.

One of the big takeaways from the call, per ESPN, is the league and players needing to be "comfortable" with some potential future positive coronavirus tests, not needing to shut down again once play does resume.

Of course, the entire league was shut down in mid-March following Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert (and later guard Donovan Mitchell) testing positive for the virus. 

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 (Treated Image by SNY)
(Treated Image by SNY)

The NBA and NBPA will be creating a group to discuss "return-to-play strategies" during a call on Tuesday, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.

Among the group is NBPA president Chris Paul as well as prominent players like Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum and Dwight Powell. 

But that's not all. According to Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes, Paul previously arranged a call with stars like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Steph Curry to create a "united front" to resume the season. They all agreed that with the right safety precautions, the league should return to play. 

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Mitchell Robinson dunks during Knicks game
Mitchell Robinson dunks during Knicks game

The Knicks were 21-45 when the NBA season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, 9.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But if the regular season resumes, they could automatically be in a play-in playoff tournament.

A source confirmed to SNY's Ian Begley that a play-in plan is under consideration, but cautioned that there are many hurdles to get past with that plan -- including the potential impact it would have on the order for the NBA Draft Lottery.

The source added that "everything remains on the table."

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Elfrid Payton (Treated Image by SNY)
Elfrid Payton (Treated Image by SNY)

The Knicks weren't able to land any high-profile free agents this past summer, which led to now ex-team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry signing a group of veterans to short, expendable deals. 

Now, with a new vision in the front office with Leon Rose the team president, those players -- and even some others -- might be on the chopping block. 

In this series, we'll look at whether or not the Knicks should let these players stay -- or let them walk. We'll focus this time on point guard Elfrid Payton:

Tags: Mitchell Robinson
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Patrick Ewing towers over Knicks VP Dave DeBusschere as he tries on New York Knicks jersey for size, with David Stern alongside. (Willie Anderson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Patrick Ewing towers over Knicks VP Dave DeBusschere as he tries on New York Knicks jersey for size, with David Stern alongside. (Willie Anderson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Back on May 12, 1985, the NBA conducted its very first Draft Lottery that is still used to this day. 

And the Knicks were the first winners of the No. 1 overall draft pick using the new system. 

With tensions high, then-GM Dave DeBusschere was relieved to hear the Pacers had the second overall pick, meaning his Knicks team would get that first pick. There was a clear consensus pick at that slot, too. 

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SNY's Jeane Coakley asked former Bull Scott Burrell for his thoughts on Episode 7 of The Last Dance and if he could strike out Michael Jordan.

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A general view of Madison Square Garden before a Knicks game (Adam Hunger)
A general view of Madison Square Garden before a Knicks game (Adam Hunger)

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

The Knicks have offered 2019-20 season-ticket holders an option to get refunds for the remaining regular season games on the schedule amid the coronavirus crisis.

The club also offered season ticket holders the option to put money spent on the unused tickets toward a season ticket package for 2020-21. If the fans choose that option, they can receive credits to the team store or concessions at Madison Square Garden or they can receive an RJ Barrett jersey.

The options were communicated in a letter to season ticket holders sent on Monday and obtained by SNY. The offers were first reported by the New York Post

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Former Knicks star Patrick Ewing talks about how Michael Jordan and Bulls cost the Knicks a ring, says he'd leave college early in this era, and more.

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Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter | 

Here's our weekly Knicks mailbag with SNY's NBA Insider Ian Begley...


@mdavidsoniv: What is the overall sense within the org. of what the Knicks really got in the drafting of RJ Barrett? Now that they have 50+ games of film to dissect, do they feel he can be the star they hoped?

I haven't polled everyone in the organization but the sense you get is that everyone is generally optimistic about RJ Barrett's future. It seemed like he met all of the realistic expectations for his rookie season in 2019-20. 

I don't think anyone can predict whether Barrett, who was selected third overall in the 2019 draft, will become a star in the league. But people around the Knicks were impressed by Barrett's consistent approach to the job and his work ethic. Some scouts I spoke with were impressed by Barrett's ability to impact the game as a rebounder and defender fairly consistently in his first season. Those scouts think that if Barrett can improve his perimeter shooting and continue to progress as a defender, he'll have a long, successful NBA career. 

Tags: Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, Ian Begley
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Here is the Sports Squared crossword puzzle for Sunday, May 10, called Madison Square Moments: History of the World's Most Famous Arena...

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Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With a 21-45 record before the NBA season was put on hold, the Knicks currently have the sixth-best odds to land the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

But if the ping pong balls don't fall their way, would the Knicks be willing to trade up to that first spot to land their top player? One NBA Insider seems to think so. 

Appearing recently as a guest on the Locked on Warriors podcast, Chad Ford speculated that the Knicks could be willing to trade up, if need be, to select LaMelo Ball.

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