On the future of the Knicks, with the background of summer league.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Guys fight for rebounds, fight for position, fight for their basketball futures. It’s in summer league, a field of dreams in a sense, where some guys find themselves year after year unable to give up on the chase.
In the gym, Amar’e Stoudemire sits courtside. He came the first year he signed a $100 million contract with the Knicks, looking on, taking ownership of the then-struggling team.
He is here two summers later, watching a squad made up of mostly hopefuls, but still his presence is noted. And last year wasn’t the easiest year for him, although his struggles were cloaked in the security of a guaranteed contract.
“We just gotta have a full season together,” says Stoudemire on the state of the Knicks. “We haven’t had a full season together yet. We had some ups and downs with a few different changes throughout the years, but I think this year is gonna be a positive year for us. We’re all gonna be ready for training camp, we have everything in place, and we’ll have a great year.”
While the Knicks will have a full season to jell, it won’t be with the same group. Landry Fields, who started 143 of the 148 games during his two-year tenure, is off to Toronto after his offer sheet went unmatched.
“I think we needed a little bit more time,” says Landry, speaking on last season and his former team. “Especially, it would’ve been good to have a training camp. The lockout definitely hurt in that regard, but it was fine in the locker room, and I think they’re gonna be great this year.”
When asked about the business of basketball propelling the constant changes in New York, Fields said, “That defines it right there. You go through so many teammates. I went through a lot in the past few years and now they’re switching it all up again.”
No switch is more blatant than Jeremy Lin, the Cinderella story turned media sensation, who will no longer play for the team that made it possible for him to hold his own press conference at All-Star weekend—without even being an All-Star.
The Knicks opted not to match Houston’s back-loaded deal, sending Lin to the team that had previously waived him. And replacing him is Raymond Felton, who averaged 17 points and 9 assists in 54 games with the Knicks during the 2010-11 season. Things have a way of coming full circle.
On reuniting, Stoudemire says, “Raymond Felton’s definitely gonna be great for us. He’s one of those guys who’s gonna play extremely hard on both ends of the court. We developed great chemistry together, so looking forward for that to continue on.”
And while the media spent last year pondering whether Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire could ever develop the necessary on-court chemistry to contend, Felton is more than confident in his frontcourt. “They’re gonna work. I’m gonna make sure of it. They’re gonna work. We’re gonna be alright,” he says.
On Lin’s move to Houston, Stoudemire says, “It’s always about bettering yourself and having an opportunity to create a better atmosphere for your family.”
It’s only fitting that we’re talking about Lin in the same place he got his start—summer league in 2010—where he held his own against the No. 1 overall pick John Wall.
I asked Landry about summer league in general—how guys play overseas, in the D-League, returning year after year. Does it allow a new perspective on what a blessing it is to play in the NBA?
“Very much so,” Fields says. “It’s a huge blessing. For a lot of guys, they have the talent, it just didn’t work out their way and they’re still chasing dreams.”
As Felton and Stoudemire sit courtside awaiting next season, and Landry and Lin prepare to head to new teams as the recipients of multi-million dollar contracts, there is still constant movement on the summer league court. Guys dive for loose balls, shout defensive assignments, and play as if everything is riding on the next basket. Because you never know who is watching, and when the next opportunity will be your own.