Friday, July 14, 2006

I hate to see Vegas go

What have I been doing in Vegas? I have been having a great time. In Las Vegas, I've had a chance to sit and ponder the upcoming Knicks season, while sitting at the European pool at our hotel for an entire week.

Really, I had a great chance to concentrate and think about basketball and take in Las Vegas sights at the European pool. I've also had a chance to watch the Knicks, and I'm impressed with Renaldo Balkman's athleticism and his energy level. He's also shown some rising offensive skills. And for a young man who was booed by Knick fans on draft night, I think he's going to prove to be a very solid player in this league for a long time.

I like Mardy Collins. Defensively you can tell that the coaching he received from John Chaney over the last four years has turned him into a very, very good young prospect.

I'm also pleased to see Nate Robinson, as the summer league season went on, settle down and start to really understand the offense and understand what his coaches want for him. He also got his teammates involved, which was a lot of fun to watch.

David Lee is a guy that, maybe down the road, is going to be not only a solid player, but also a very good player in this league. He's got terrific tenacity; he goes after the ball, and has averaged 10 rebounds per game. His mid-range game got better, but he still needs to work on his free throws. So to me, I hate to see Vegas go, but I can't wait to get back to the Apple.

Gus' Previous Entry

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Vegas routine and farewell

It was sort of a little deja vu coming back to Las Vegas.

Back in the 70s, I often came out here for celebrity tennis tournaments held at The Riviera, somewhere around Caesar's Palace. I'm not a gambler, but I used to love to come out here just for the shows and the food. They were pretty much, in those days, giving all that to you just to get people out here to gamble.

All the drinks were free, food was very inexpensive, and so were the shows, but today the things have changed. They still have the gambling, but they're not giving it away like they used to. So the food has gone up, as have the shows.

Also, it's more of a family orientation here now. Back in the day, in the 70s, it was for adults. But now you have the families coming up, so this place has really boomed. We stayed in the Wynn Hotel, a very fabulous hotel during Summer League. I've stayed at the Mirage, the Bellagio, and the Venetian - one of my favorite hotels - so this place is really spectacular now to me. It's like New York; Vegas is a place everyone should visit at least one time. It's that fascinating!

Since I'm doing the games, I've gotten into a nice little routine here. I usually wake up in the morning at six o'clock, believe it or not, because of the time difference. Obviously it will be nine o'clock in New York, so I usually get up and do some exercise on the floor, but I have this mesmerizing view out my window overlooking the strip. I can see Treasure Island, the Mirage, the Venetian, and all the way up the strip. At night, it's really intoxicating. I usually leave my drapes open all night just looking out; and also during the day when I get up, I open the drapes since that's when I usually do my exercise, my yoga, for maybe an hour looking at that nice vista. Then I order breakfast, usually two eggs sunny side up with whole wheat toast, and two eggs poached medium, also with toast and some swiss muesli since I don't eat bacon, ham, pork, or potatoes with my breakfast. Then I'll always order some type of tea - today it was chamomile tea - hot boiling water and extra honey.

Then I read the paper, I usually get the U.S.A. Today, and then I, believe it or not, watch TV and I go back to sleep until 12 noon. Then I wake up, go down to the health club, and do my workout for an hour-and-a-half and come back. Today, we had the game at 4:00 EST, so I went down there at about 1:00, worked out for an hour-and-a-half, and came back. So then my lunch is usually a chicken sandwich, grilled chicken breast on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise on the side.

On and then I have to press my clothes, because they are wrinkled sometimes. Then I head over to the game so that's pretty much been my routine. On our off day, I went sight-seeing. I haven't really seen all of our hotel, The Wynn, since it's so huge you can get lost in that place. So I'll probably get up early before it gets too hot, say around 10 o'clock I'm going to be out and about.

They have fabulous shopping all over Vegas; right across the street from us there's a nice fashion place. It's certainly been a fun trip for me. Obviously it's a different pace from what I do in St. Croix. With so many people around here, especially on the weekends, there's lines for everything. It's kind of overwhelming really. Right now Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays not too bad; the crowds aren't as large as they are starting Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

I have an 11:30 p.m. flight back to Miami Thursday and I'll connect from there to get back to St. Croix, and get back to my lifestyle there. I'll be there for a week and then I'll head back to New York. I am currently the spokesperson for Type II diabetes, which is very rampant right now, especially among black people and also amongst our youth, because of obesity. So I'll be doing a satellite tour of that once I get back to New York. I usually do that with Earl Monroe, who has Type II diabetes. Earl and I have been partners, but this time I'm just going to do a solo thing, and try to educate the public on the importance of exercise and diet. Because if you have Type II diabetes, you can control it by your exercise and diet. And, of course, if you do not have it, you can try and prevent it with that as well.

So I have some busy times ahead of me before we get back to the regular season in November. Thanks for visiting my blog and we'll see you back at the good ol' Garden soon enough!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rolls and roles

Well, folks, I see I've been getting a lot of comments. Just to let you all know...No, I don't have the Rolls Royce I used to tool around New York with back in the 70s. I actually sold it to a Knick fan about three years ago.

It was like my wife, when I sold it. I wasn't there when the guy picked it up, I just told him where to pick it up. If I had gone there, there's no way I could have parted with it. It's been a part of my life since 1970, so that's a long time to have a car. I really enjoyed it. It was different, it was part of the New York scene.

I was always out and about, going out. "WCF" was on the plates, it was burgundy and beige. The side was beige, and the top was burgundy, the hood, the trunk, the top, and then I had the gangster white walls on it; I added my little Clyde touch to it as well.

Sometimes I would get overzealous fans try to jump on the car, and I was like "Hey! get off my car," because the Rolls is easy to dent, especially the hood and the doors. People would be clinging to the doors and trying to hop up on the hood. It caused for some anxiety when people tried to do that.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with the car, and people even tell me now they love seeing it as a part of the New York scene.

As for your question about Nate Robinson's place on the team, it's a very good one. Nate obviously is behind those guys, and I think if he comes out very aggressive on the defense and minimizes on turnovers, he's going to bring something to the game that those other guys do not bring - relentless play.

He's very strong and very quick, but if he looks to shoot on the perimeter with the three-pointers he's not going to get much playing time. He has to bring his defense and his ability to create off the dribble.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Knicks needs and Rucker memories

I see people have been hitting me up on my blog. Russell wanted to know about my bed and breakfast in St. Croix. Do I have a website? Not yet, Russell, but I should have it up in a couple of months. I'm in the process of finishing up now. I'll have nice pictures to show you, and I will have that on the website.

It doesn't matter whether I am in Vegas or St. Croix, all Knicks fans want to know what is wrong with the Knicks, how long will it take them to turn this around. I think this is the year.

I know they are going to be better than 23 wins. Isiah has brought a lot of optimism to the players. They wanted to play an uptempo style and he's going to do that, so I think they'll be happy in that scenario.

Of course, the problems that bedeviled the team last season will need to be corrected, starting with turnovers, which they led the league in. They also committed too many personal fouls and the defense gave up 102 points a game. So along with what they want to do offensively, I think they must improve the defense as well if they are going to turn it around and hopefully get into the playoffs.

Back in the day when I played, we did not have an organized league like the Vegas Summer League, which is actually sponsored by the NBA. We played, of course, in the Rucker Tournament.

They had the Sunny Hill Tournament down in Philadelphia, the Dirt Bowl in Indiana, and they also had these types of tournaments in Chicago. But these were not sanctioned by the NBA, these were just games that the NBA players played in.

The league has come a long way now. It is no longer just a game, it is a big business. So, as we alluded to here, the players being scrutinized, the officials being young guys who are not in the league now, they are all gaining valuable experience. So I think this is a good thing that the league is doing.

The league today is light years ahead of what it was when I was playing, and I am just proud to see the progress it has made, the popularity it has gained today, and of course the extraordinary play of the players.

The Rucker League is reknowned. They had Herman Helicopter, Earl "The Goat" Manigault, Pee Wee Kirkland, and Dr. J's legend started there, as well as Nate Archibald's.

When I was a rookie with the Knicks, I played on the team with Willis Reed up there and it was intimidating. I didn't know who these guys were, but they were blocking Willis' shot. They were all over me, leaping up over the rim like they were on trampolines. People were all around the court, hanging off fences, yelling and screaming. So, it was quite an experience my first time playing there and a lot of the guys you hear about now with the Rucker Tournament were the guys I was playing against.

Clyde's Previous Entry

Monday, July 10, 2006

Happiness reigns for hopeful Knicks

No, I haven't seen Elvis yet here in Vegas. But then again, I'm still spending most of the time that I'm not working at the pool. I don't know if Elvis likes water -- but I do!

That aside, I think I should start off by saying, you can't tell a whole lot by two Knicks Summer League games, but one thing that's clear to me is that Renaldo Balkman is an athlete . He's got a ton of athleticism and he's going to help this team a lot more than another guard would have helped this team at 20 -- and that's not taking anything away from anybody. He possesses a lot of intangibles, he's got a good nose for the ball on defense, and he can block shots from the three and the two; you can even put him on a 1 I think. He can rebound, he can defend, he's shown some signs of being explosive and getting to the basket and has about two or three dunks already. Needless to say, I like him a lot so far. Renaldo's a quiet guy, not a lot of fanfare with him; I think he'll be a good fit.

In terms of Mardy Collins, he's a big guy and right now he's struggling offensively, but you can see he's one of those John Chaney-type players. He's very deliberate with the basketball and he's not going to turn it over a lot, even though he has turned it over a couple times here. But once he gets comfortable and understands where he's going and where everybody else is going, he's not going to turn the ball over much in my mind. He's going to defend, he's going to rebound, and he's going to make sure the ball gets to the open man -- even if that means he's got to make the pass that leads to a pass that leads to an assist.

Mardy's a quiet, very nice young man, and I think that he also is going to be a really, really good addition to this Knicks team. Here's why: Collins and Balkman are two guys that aren't looking to score the basketball, they're not looking to have the ball in their hands. They're looking to do all the other things that make teams good, and I think the Knicks need more guys like that.

In baseball, the Mets had scrappy guys like Wally Backman and Lenny Dykstra (and, for you Detroit Tigers fans of yesteryear out there, Tom Brookens was a such a player) that could do everything. The Knicks need more guys like that, and I think they're getting them.

More than any of that, it's like these guys are happy; these young players are happy, these coaches are happy, Isiah is happy (I've see him in the work out facility like he's getting ready to go back out there and play), Mark Aguirre is happy, Herb Williams is happy, everybody is happy. Everybody is trying to get along and they know they have to band together this year because it's do or die. As a journalist and as a fan, it's going to be fun to watch.

More fun:
I've seen plenty of basketball out here, and especially enjoyed the returning Amare Stoudamire play against the Knicks. And it'll be fun seeing Ron Artest play. I had a chance to see Houston, also, and I'll tell you who looks good, John Lucas. He's has been just terrific in this summer league. I remember him well when he played with Oklahoma State. He got picked up by Houston at the end of last season with a 10-day contract, and I just think that he has a lot of talent. He can really work it straight, he's the kind of guy you want playing point guard for you. Some team here is really going to see his talent and make him a serious offer.

And, though most talk has been about the Knicks squad's their starting five, I've also like the play of Walker Russell. He's actually a better point guard right now than Nate Robinson in terms of being a pure point guard. I would say he's a better point guard than Robinson and Mardy Collins right now, because he knows how to move the ball, and knows how to get the ball to his teammates in their best spots on the floor. He can score, he's quick enough to get by people, and his jump shot isn't bad either. He's played with heart and passion, so keep an eye on Walker Russell. He's the son of Walker D. Russell who played with Isiah in Detroit, and he's also the nephew of Campy Russell. The bloodlines say, so far, that he can play.

Gus' Previous Entry

Lee's leap

Well, I'm back from Las Vegas Summer League, and to be honest I was quite impressed with what I saw out there from the starting five New York Knicks, who potentially someday could all be on the floor at one time. The last three number one picks from last year's team, Nate Robinson, David Lee, Channing Frye, all look much more confident, especially Lee.

I think of the three players, David Lee to me, looks like he's made the biggest steps from last year to this year, and when I say that I mean this: we saw Nate Robinson and Channing Frye make those steps last year, and they looked like they were going to be very good players, but we didn't get to see a lot of significant time with David Lee. He's gotten bigger, he's gotten stronger, he's become more confident. In his first two games out in the Summer League he scored 23 points in the first game, and then 19 points against Amare Stoudamire and phoenix in the second game. And you just have a feeling that David now is starting to get it. He knows what his role is, and he brings the excitement and that energy that the Knicks and Isiah Thomas are looking for on the offensive and defensive ends.

I think Lee will have a very, very positive impact on this team and I think the Knicks will be very happy with his development from the first year to the second year.

As for the other younger players, this years' number one picks, Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins, it's going to take some time especially for Collins. But Balkman already has shown signs in his second game of that athleticism that the Knicks loved when they drafted him, especially when you see how he can block shots and run the floor. He can handle with his left hand, he can go up, he can rebound, and there's a place for him on this team. I think you're going to see him be in the Knicks' plans after Summer League.

You know Frye -- who sprained his ankle vs. Phoenix, but is okay -- is going to be an impact player, a guy the Knicks will count on heavily this year. You know little Nate will probably have his role defined by Isiah and will understand what he can and can't do. And Isiah will know he's a guard -- not a point guard, not a shooting guard, but a guard. And I guess for that, Nate Robinson will probably accept his role and give this team some quality minutes.

But right now, the starting five out in Vegas are looking good, getting better, getting more confident, and it should mean some good things for the New York Knicks this year as they get ready for training camp with the Knicks. It's more than evident that the Knicks will have a strong foundation of young players to count on.

Fooch's Previous Entry

Sunday, July 09, 2006

All work and some play for Clyde

I'm still setting up my bed-and-breakfast concept in St. Croix. So, I'm painting, decorating, landscaping, pretty much working eight-to-twelve hours a day. All my friends think I'm lounging on the beach, but that's not happening.

It's a labor of love for me. That's why I decided to live in the islands, because I didn't want to vegetate. I wanted to keep active. I like sailing and gardening, and all the things that I'm doing now, which is a transition from New York.

In Vegas, I have a splendid view out my window at the hotel, so I leave the drapes open all the time. At night, it's magnificent. I see the whole strip. I can see Treasure Island, The Mirage, and all the other hotels up there. The lights and the mountains make for a magnificent view. I have breakfast there, I have lunch there, sitting and just watching the view, so it's very therapeutic. I sit there and do my yoga, my exercise, before I go down to the health club to work out.

I'm really happy to be in Vegas. I see a big change from back in the day when I used to come out here in the 1970s, when Caesar's Palace was perhaps the biggest place that they had. But now they have The Bellagio, The Venetian - one of my favorites that I've stayed at - and now The Wynn is the latest magnificent hotel, and I'm fortunate to be staying there. So, I'm really enjoying my trip here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Poolside with Gus Johnson

Right now, I'm sitting at the pool here at the hotel and I'm really thinking hard about what transpired with the Knicks. It's very distracting because there's a regular pool and then there's a European pool, and you can just imagine what's going on at the European pool.

I think that Isiah's getting what he wanted. He wanted an athletic guy that can play defense, run the floor, make things happen, come up with energy plays, and I think Renaldo Balkman is going to be that kind of player. I just have a good feeling about him.

Mardy Collins has already shown that he can guard bigger guys. He can rebound a little bit, he can pass the ball, he can score, and he's only a rookie. But he plays defense, so I don't know.

I think old Zeke may know something that we all don't know to be real comfortable with where he's sitting right now and it will be interesting to watch the rest of these summer league games.

Until tomorrow, when we watch the Knicks play Phoenix - by the way Amare Stoudemire is supposed to play, so that should be interesting to watch him come back after spending the whole year out with an injury - but until tomorrow, I will sit here at the European pool and think long and hard about today's game and what the Knicks have to do to get ready for tomorrow's game.

Promising performance from Knicks youngsters

The Knicks tipped off their Vegas Summer League in good fashion today as they knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers' summer league team, 95-71. It was impressive to watch the young Knick players who are going into their second season.

Nate Robinson scored 23 points, David Lee had 20, and Channing Frye added 19. All three looked aggressive, confident, and stronger than they were a year ago at this time. You can definitely see the difference in the youngsters as they played with a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of confidence.

Channing Frye is bigger, stronger, and the thing I liked to see about him today was that he wasn't pushed out of the paint. Last year, when he made his debut in the summer league, he was pushed around a little bit and seemed to fade away once the ball went up and other players came into the cylinder for the rebound. Today, no one pushed Channing around. He was in good position, he was able to get down low, establish his position, and he was very active. There's a very, very bright future in store for Channing Frye.

Nate Robinson was very explosive and very exciting. He needs to get sometimes a little more control, but that's his game. Boy does he love to play basketball, and it shows, especially now under new head coach Isiah Thomas.

David Lee also looks like he's had time to work on his body in the offseason and it showed right away in his first game with 20 points and eight rebounds.

So these three will definitely be much-improved by the end of this summer league.

Renaldo Balkman, the 20th pick in the first round, showed some flashes today. He only scored six points, but he showed quickness, hustle, and passion - the reason why the Knicks drafted him. They want him to be a role player, an energy player who will lift up the team and the crowd.

Mardy Collins, the Knicks' other first-round pick, just went out there to play. He wanted to play defense, do the right thing, be in the right position, not make mistakes, and not turn the ball over. He wasn't as aggressive offensively, but after the game he said he just wanted to get on the court and not make mistakes. And after today he's going to be more aggressive.

So it was the first good day for the Knicks youngsters, and the team will try to build on that as they continue to play with four more games left in this summer league.

Fooch's Previous Entry