Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
A day after Julius Randle responded to Kevin Durant's critique of the Knicks, teammate Marcus Morris chimed in.
Never was a fan of doing what was cool! I love being a Knick!!! Feeling right at home- Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) October 10, 2019
Durant earlier this week was on radio station Hot 97 when the host, Ebro, lamented the state of the Knicks.
Durant responded, "They're trying. They're trying. It's hard to get the best players to play here. It's hard."
Durant was asked to expand on why it's difficult for the Knicks to attract stars.
"I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players who, in their lifetime, don't remember the Knicks being good. I didn't grow up with the Knicks," he said. "I've seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn't see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks to them is not as cool as, let's say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now.
"It's like the cool thing right now is not the Knicks," he added.
It's hard to argue with Durant's overall point about the Knicks. The club has won just one playoff series since 2001 and has missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. Since the failed Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade, the Nets went through similar struggles. But they've been on a clear upward trajectory (a 22-win increase over the past three seasons and a playoff berth last year). Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the club this summer.
After missing on their top free agent targets, including Durant, New York signed several players on short term deals and hopes to take a step forward with this group after a 17-65 2018-19 campaign.
Randle, who signed a three-year $63 million deal with New York over the summer, defended the franchise on Wednesday.
"S--t, I feel cool in blue and orange," Randle told reporters. "I don't know about everybody else but I feel pretty cool wearing my Knicks gear every day. It's a dream come true for me. Everybody has their own opinion."
Taj Gibson was asked about the team's preseason projections and referenced the idea that the Knicks are a regular topic of the public NBA conversation.
"Being a Knick alone you kind of see getting criticized every day, everywhere you go," he said. "We just believe in what we've got going here, we got a great group of guys, a great hungry group of guys, you know what I'm saying? We just take it one day at a time."
Some preseason predictions have the Knicks in the 25-30-win range. Randle said he doesn't pay attention to such things.
"Not all, nope. I don't give a damn bro, I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "I don't know what they got us projected at, I don't know what they got us projected at in the East, does it really matter?
"I'm self -motivated," he added. "I'm not really worried about what somebody else has to say. This is my sixth year in the league, somebody done had something to say about me every single year, something about my team every single year. And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter."
Big Ben visits
Four-time Defensive Player of the Year and NBA champ Ben Wallace visited Knicks practice on Thursday. He has a relationship with Knicks GM Scott Perry, who was an executive with Detroit when the club won a title.
"Man, I want this team to embody that kind of identity. Toughness, the will to win, competitiveness, the defensive mindset, the team mindset," David Fizdale said of Wallace's Pistons. "He's one of the most selfless players in the league. You know, he spoke to our guys today. It was extremely powerful what he talked about, his experience and how he sees a lot of similarity to what we're doing to how they built it in Detroit."
What was Wallace's message about the similarities between the Knicks and those Pistons teams?
"No stars. You aren't a team of superstars. You gotta be a team. You look at that Detroit team, Chauncey Billups had bounced around five teams, Rip (Hamilton) had been two or three teams, Sheed (Rasheed Wallace), himself. Tayshawn (Prince) was the only one who was drafted in Detroit," Fizdale said. "(Wallace) talked about everybody being willing to sacrifice and contribute to the team from the standpoint it could be someone different every night."
As noted above, the Knicks missed out on stars this summer and have a group that will compete internally for minutes/roles in the preseason.
Randle believes that depth will make the group stronger.
"We knew from the beginning when this team was built, when Scott and (Knicks president) Steve (Mills) put this team together, that it was built on being a team, being a deep team, 1 thru 5 and playing hard, and the next guys playing hard and then get deeper in our bench if we needed to," said Randle, whose college coach, John Calipari, also visited Knicks practice on Thursday. "We knew that was a strength of our team how many guys that can come in and contribute. That's what it is man. We have a bunch of guys who can come in and contribute and buy into what Fiz is saying. And if we do that, we'll be fine."
Smith Jr. doubtful for Friday
Fizdale and the organization still has nearly two weeks to sort out a starting lineup/rotation for opening night in San Antonio. But they may have to wait a few more days to see point guard Dennis Smith Jr. in game action. Smith Jr. is being listed as doubtful for Friday's game against the Wizards due to a back strain. Smith Jr. practice in a limited fashion on Thursday but took contact, which was an encouraging sign to Fizdale. "We'll see how his body reacts to it. Hopefully that's a positive reaction," Fizdale said. Smith Jr. is competing with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina for minutes in the backcourt.
Kevin Knox (calf) didn't practice on Thursday and is questionable for Friday. Bobby Portis (rib) is probable. Portis missed Monday's game due to a rib contusion.
Fiz doesn't see FAs as selfish
Fizdale said a few times last season that some Knicks were playing a bit too selfish because they were entering free agency. New York has several players with team options on their contracts for next season, but Fizdale doesn't see the same type of selfish play plaguing these Knicks.
"I've got a different feeling with this group for whatever reason. I just feel like all of these guys are understanding that the better our team does the better it is for them individually," he said. "….There's a maturity to the group for sure. Between Marcus and Wayne (Ellington) and Taj, Bobby, these guys have a real way about them. They want to win. That's their priority first. They understand that if we have a good season as a team, only good things are going to happen for them individually."
Fizdale said that the free agents understood New York wanted to maintain flexibility when they signed this summer.
"But at the same time that doesn't mean we don't want them back. A lot of these guys are making great impressions and will have the chance to be back with us next year," he said.
More than a few Wizards people are excited about Washington's Garrison Mathews. Mathews had a pretty perimeter jumper in New York's win over Washington on Monday and had a strong performance on Wednesday in the Wizards' win over the Guangzhou Long-Lions.
He had 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in a team-high 34 minutes off the bench. He shared the ball well; Washington outscored the Lions by 39 points in those minutes. Mathews, on a two-way contract, will have an opportunity to earn minutes/a rotation spot on a rebuilding Wizards team that comes to the Garden on Friday.
He and Knicks sharpshooter Damyean Dotson both share the same agent, Chris Patrick, who has found under-the-radar talent in the past. Patrick put Robert Covington, then an undrafted player, on NBA radars and helped him stick in the league. At 6-7 and 200 pounds, Mathews fits the same mold of a tough defender who has size and can shoot.