5 early knicks camp observations
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Five observations from Knicks camp:
1. The Bigs Will Run: Jerome James and Eddy Curry had better get in shape, because they're going to be doing a lot of 94-foot sprints this year. Under Larry Brown's system, the center has to race down the court, in both directions.
Larry Brown has gotten the Knicks' attention.
"I want them in front of the ball like Dave Cowens used to be and Buck [Williams] used to be," said Brown.
That's an adjustment for James, who could run up the court at a more leisurely pace in Seattle.
"In Seattle I was a screening center," said James. "I'd come down and set a pick for Rashard Lewis. [Brown] wants the big guys down there first, getting early position."
James was one of the first training-camp casualties as a result of his efforts to play Brown's way. He began sprinting up the court during an outlet-pass drill and strained his left hamstring, sidelining him for the rest of Wednesday's practice. James said he'd never had hamstring trouble before, but he'd never had to play under this system before either.
At any rate, he was hardly surprised by the timing of his injury.
"The second day is the hardest," said James. "Your body is tired and sore, your muscles are fatigued, but you're still trying to go hard."
2. Don't Bury Allan Houston Just Yet: Allan Houston wanted to give his knee one more go in training camp before hanging up his sneakers, and he's encouraged by the early results. While he's not up to the full itinerary of two-a-days that his teammates are running, Houston is further along than he expected.
"I've done some full court, some half-court, running, doing drills," said Houston. "It's a huge step for me. But I'm taking it slow. It's a marathon. I'm not going to prove anything in one week."
Houston sat out the second session on Tuesday and is likely to do so for the rest of camp.
"I don't want to get too excited even though it felt good," Houston said. "It's not how many [sessions], but within each practice what I'll be able to do.
"The hard part has been patience. It hasn't been if [coming back] is going to happen. It's the gradual process instead of making huge jumps week to week. It's taught me a lesson in attitude and perspective. Even now, doing what I'm doing now, I'm already a step ahead."
If Houston does indeed come back, that's a good news/bad news situation for the Knicks.
On the one hand, they certainly could use another guard. They have only four with NBA experience on the roster -- Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway -- and two of those hardly count. Hardaway has slipped badly the past few seasons, while Richardson is expected to play small forward.
However, the salary drawbacks are hard to ignore. The Knicks avoided using the so-called Allan Houston Rule on Houston because they assumed his bad knees would cause him to retire this fall. That would allow insurance to pick up most of the tab for the final two years of his contract, and the Knicks were sure enough it would happen that they used the luxury-tax amnesty on Jerome Williams instead.
In the next few weeks, they'll learn if that gamble turned out to be an expensive one.
3. They'll Sweat the Small Stuff: Following two of the most laid-back coaches in NBA history in Don Chaney and Lenny Wilkens, Brown represents an abrupt U-turn, and the players have been quick to take notice. After just three practices, virtually every conversation with players about Brown's style involved the word "detail."
LB's style will take some getting used to.
"More than anyone I ever played with or played for, he's meticulous about the details," said Houston, which is quite a statement considering all the coaches he's played for -- including his own father at Tennessee.
"He was definitely demanding," said Jerome James. "He will beat something into the ground until it gets into your head. He talks specifics, the details of the game. He's going to be a stickler on doing things a certain way, but that's how you win games."
While some worry all of that needling may wear on players over time, Brown believes that as long as the delivery is good, the message won't have a problem getting through:
"I [know] very few players that I can think of that don't respond to coaching. But you have to make sure they know it's not criticism, it's coaching. Sometimes young kids don't know that."
4. One Big Happy Family? Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson are excited that Eddy Curry is coming (presuming he passes his physical) -- and not just because his arrival will remove Tim Thomas from the playing-time equation on the wings.
Crawford was Curry's teammate in Chicago and shares a close bond.
"I couldn't believe it, that's one of my best friends," said Crawford. "Not just in basketball, but in life. For him to be here is amazing."
Richardson worked out with Curry in Chicago over the summer and said the big man wanted to come to the Knicks. And he said Curry had been diligent about staying in shape this offseason, which has been a problem in the past. The two worked out at WestLoop Athletic Club, and Curry "was there earlier than us every day," says Richardson.
The only issue may be a lack of game play. Trainer Tim Grover, who runs the workouts, wouldn't let Curry play because he didn't have a contract for the season and didn't want him to get hurt.
But Crawford hopes Curry's excitement over the deal will help him overcome the rust.
"He's ecstatic," said Crawford. "He'll come in and not miss a beat."
5. The Coaches' Coach: To see the respect other coaches have for Brown, particularly the way he organizes practices and runs drills, just count the coaches who showed up in Charleston to get a look.
College of Charleston coach John Kresse didn't have to travel far, but former Bucks coach Terry Porter and college coaches Larry Eustachy (Southern Mississippi), Kelvin Sampson (Oklahoma), Billy Donovan (Florida) and Pete Gillen (formerly of Virginia) also turned up. Sampson, in fact, brought his entire staff to learn from the legend.
Brown is well-versed in delivering monologues about all the wonderful coaches he's worked with, so he doesn't mind the company at all.
"That's been great for me," Brown said about his visitors. "They share stuff. I end up learning more than they do."
If that's the case, one of the game's best minds is getting even sharper this week