On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Knicks Open Practice at The Garden. Big Shout Out to Mark Says Hi for the hook up.
Mark just became a season ticket holder so they gave him the VIP Treatment. He got there early and was able to meet several players including Landy Fields, Andy Rautins, and a less than thrilled Walt Clyde Frazier. I wasn't jealous until he revealed to me that he got to meet my all-time favorite player John Starks. Very cool!
While Mark was hobnobbing with the players I was outside the Garden asking fans about their expectations for the season and the roster. Just about everyone I spoke with pleaded for Carmelo Anthony to join the Knicks and for Donnie Walsh and Co. to get it done. (You'll be able to hear these interviews on this Thursday's Knicks Fanatics Radio Show at 8pm EST. )
11 am quickly approached and it was time to head in to MSG for the practice. I was surprised to learn that our seats were 5 rows back from the court. Our location lent itself to the opportunity to witness some funny interaction between the fans and the Knicks players and coaches. One moment that stands out is a fan asks coach Phil Weber, "Where's Eddy?" To which he responded, "He's injured," with a sly smile. Another moment was when Allan Houston was introduced to the crowd and a fan welcomed him with a "I want my money back!" Gotta love the NY fans.
As I approached my seat the Knicks players were running some shooting drills and shortly thereafter disappeared into the locker room. I noticed how The Russian Hammer Timofey Mozgov towered over eveyone else and that there was no sight of Danilo Gallinari or Amar'e Stoudemire. Clearly they were waiting for the big reveal.
The Pre-Practice festivities ensued, including a wheelchair game, The Knicks City Dancers, and Team Flight Brothers performing a series of implausible dunks
Then the Knicks were introduced for the Blue and White teams respectively, with Gallo and Stat being announced last. From my estimation it appeared that Anthony Randolph and Stoudemire got the loudest ovations from the crowd of a few thousand Faithful Knicks Fans.
The team ran through dribbling and agility drills, accomponied by some groovy background music that made me feel as if I were trapped in the middle of a 1983 Richard Simmons workout video.
From there they went on to shooting drills and structured scrimmage situations.
There was a Competitive Nature from the get go which was highlighted by a hard foul by Timofey Mozgov on fellow Rookie. Mozgov is a little bit awkward and true to the wrap on him so far that he's foul prone. However, Mozgov was probably the most impressive player. He and Anthony Randolph challenged each other above the rim several times with Mozgov picking up a couple blocks and Randolph getting the better of him on a few plays.
Randolph showed some good range, hitting a couple open jumpers and making plays for his teammates.
Raymond Felton was somewhat erratic when he commited two puzzling turnovers but he did make a few good plays to set up fast break finishes. He was paired up with Toney Douglas at the 2 guard for a decent stretch of time. Andy Rautins ran the point for the white team and had a very good shooting day while calling out the plays and setting the offense in motion. The other end of the court wasn't as kind. He appeared to be a defensive liability as stronger players bullied their way to the basket.
Gallo wasn't overly aggressive and didn't stand out. He hung out on the perimeter mostly, and was rejected on a couple drives to the hoop.
Fields looked versatile and appeared to enjoy the Open Practice Forum. Him and Rautins have a budding Bromance. They repeatedly found each other for a quick laugh or words of encouragement throughout the practice.
Stat had some highlight reel finishes, hanging on the rim and at one point flexing for the fans behind the basket, much to their delight. Stat was a crowd pleaser indeed but there were moments where I perceived some agitation from his teammates after he received preferential treatment from the coaches turned refs. Hmmmm..... The perks of signing a big contract?
Overall it was a unique opportunity to see the team up and personal and I'm pleased to have been in attendance. We'll talk about it more during Thursday's radio show.
To see some blurry pictures from my Blackberry click here How's that for link bait?