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.
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.
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