Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Kenny Wooten's blocks this season have landed him on SportsCenter. But his development in other areas of the game has impressed the Knicks.
"His growth from Summer League to now, he's a totally different player," Westchester Knicks head coach Derrick Alston said late last month. "He's always been, of course, a freak athletically. But now, just, understanding the game. Learning how to roll, where to be on the court, not being in the way, setting screens - all those little things that people assume guys know, but they don't.... Just seeing his growth. How much he wants to learn, it's been really good."
Wooten is tied for the lead in blocks per game in the G League (3.7). He's averaging 6.8 points and 5.7 rebounds a game for Westchester and has opened eyes among NBA scouts.
"He certainly looks capable of defending on the interior at this level," one scout said recently.
Wooten is on a G League contract with Westchester, so he can sign a 10-day contract with any NBA team at the moment. Multiple teams outside of the Knicks have expressed an interest in signing Wooten recently, per league sources.
If the Knicks want to sign Wooten, they'd need to create a roster spot by waiving or trading player. (If the Knicks want to sign Wooten to a two-way deal, they'd need to waive one of their two-way players (Kadeem Allen, Ivan Raab) and agree to terms prior to Jan. 15).
Wooten, who signed with the Knicks as an undrafted free agent last summer, isn't overly concerned with being signed by an NBA club. The former Oregon Duck is just trying to stay in the moment, which means continuing to develop and learn with Westchester.
"It's been really fun. I feel like I've learned a lot (from) a lot of ups and downs that we've been having. I feel like I really needed this in order to take the next step," Wooten said late last month of playing with Westchester, which leads the G League in call-ups over the last two seasons (nine).
Wooten, who is represented by Mayar Zokaei, the agent for Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson, took some time to answer a few other questions after a Westchester Knicks practice late last month. Here's an edited version of the conversation.
SNY: HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'VE DEVELOPED AS A PLAYER ON AND OFF THE COURT?
WOOTEN: I feel like I definitely have learned how to be a professional down here, making that switch from college to pro. On the court, the game has been slowing down for me a lot. I'm just taking in a lot from the coaching staff and I feel like it's showing on the court
SNY: WHAT HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF YOUR ABILITY TO BLOCK SHOTS AT THIS LEVEL?
WOOTEN: To be honest, I feel like every level, it's been the same. The talent level has just risen. So every year, it's just going to take more of an effort from me to be able to get my blocks like I do. You run across guys that are great finishers. They figure it out, jumping into my body and all that. And I just have to adjust. Just wall up. I used to get 10 (blocks) in college, in high school I would get 15 blocks, but now it's starting to go down (due to the competition)
SNY: BECAUSE THE G LEAGUE IS ABOUT DEVELOPMENT, DO YOU THINK YOU'VE IMPROVED AS AN INTERIOR DEFENDER OVER THE COURSE OF THE YEAR?
WOOTEN: "Oh yeah. For sure. If I (was playing this way) in high school, I would get like 30 blocks per game, real talk. You could see the opportunities now that I didn't see (to block shots) in college and high school. And I definitely wouldn't be in foul trouble like I used to be. I used to be in foul trouble a lot. But now you just get smarter. You realize you don't have to put your hands on people, and I jump a lot higher than people. I usually just jump second."
SNY: DO YOU SEE THE GAME DIFFERENTLY NOW WHEN DEFENDING THE RIM? DO YOU APPROACH IT DIFFERENTLY?
WOOTEN: "No I feel like I approach it the same. I feel like my athleticism usually gives me the upper hand and I feel like I can go against anybody really. I feel like I just have to be more careful. The guys are a lot stronger. I can end up getting hurt in a matter of seconds. I feel like I have to not be too antsy on the block. Don't jump first. Just be patient."
SNY: G LEAGUE PLAYERS CAN SIGN 10-DAY DEALS. DO YOU FEEL LIKE NBA TEAMS WHO ARE WATCHING HAVE SEEN YOU AT YOUR BEST?
WOOTEN: "I feel like I can always improve. There are a lot of things I do well. I feel like there are a lot of things I can improve on. But I think I have a pretty good shot at getting one of the 10 days.
SNY: IS IT SOMETHING THAT'S ON YOUR MIND
WOOTEN: "No. I'm really more into the now. I'm moreso focused on our schedule now. But if it happens, it happens. Being in this business, I realize that everything happens in the blink of an eye. So it if happens, it happens."
SNY: WHAT'S PLAYING FOR COACH ALSTON LIKE?
WOOTEN: "It's great. I love playing for Coach DA. He talks to me like a normal person. We just have this great bond. I feel like I can go to him about anything. He teaches me a lot of stuff on the court. I think he's a great coach."
SNY: WHAT HAVE YOUR INTERACTIONS BEEN LIKE WITH (KNICKS VP OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT/G LEAGUE OPERATIONS) CRAIG ROBINSON?
WOOTEN: "He's at all of our games, he's at most of our practices. He's always around. He's always active. I feel like he's the best guy for us. I think he's going to make great decisions, all in all."
SOME PEOPLE SEE THE G LEAGUE AS MORE ABOUT DEVELOPING PLAYERS THAN WINS AND LOSSES. DO WINS AND LOSSES MATTER TO YOU GUYS?
WOOTEN: "Yeah, they definitely do. Being a competitor, wins definitely matters. Everyone goes out there to get better but no one goes out there to get better at the expense of winning. We all go out there and try to win."