NEW YORK, October 2, 2003 - The ultimate goal of course, is to make -- and be a serious factor in -- the NBA playoffs. But, in his State-Of-The Knicks Address, Knicks President and GM Scott Layden put the emphasis on some interim goals as well. "At the end of last year we set out to get longer, more athletic, and younger," he said. "We feel we've accomplished that."
The youthful part is something that Layden considers particularly exciting. "We do have an excellent core of young players that can be developed," he said. "Not just our three rookies but Frank Williams, who is a very young second-year player, as well. We haven't had that in some time -- and I think the fans will really enjoy that. New York fans are very knowledgeable -- remember the buzz at the draft when Maciej Lampe was just sitting there throughout the first round? While I'm not sure fans in a lot of other places would have even known who this Lampe kid was, I don't know WHAT would have happened if we didn't pick him at No. 30."
"We are not naive," added Layden. "We know there will be some growing pains for these young players. But they are all intelligent, they are all extremely hard workers with character, and people who absorb instruction exceedingly well. So I have all the confidence that, with Don Chaney and his new coaching staff working with them, they will all get better and, eventually, reach their potential."
Besides the trio of rookies -- who add up to over 21 feet of truly terrific talent -- the "longer" part of the preseason promise arrived in the person of 6-10 Keith Van Horn (acquired in a trade for 6-5 Latrell Sprewell). "Height -- and the versatility he'll give us, those are things are really like about Keith," said Layden. "He's big, yet he'll play some "three". He's an outstanding outside shooter, yet he's a player who can go inside and post up smaller guys. He'll make us much tougher as far as matchups go. This is Keith's time -- and I very strongly feel that he'll answer the call."
Van Horn certainly looks great. "He's lost 15 pounds," said Layden. Were they the SAME 15 pounds thinny-thin rookie Slavko Vranes has already gained? "Thing is, everybody looks to be in tip-top shape and excited about the season," said Layden. "Hopefully that'll help us avoid a slow start. Still, it's important to remember, we're putting in lots of new pieces -- and the NBA season is incredibly long. So we must fight through the beginning, the middle, and the end."
This could indeed be a playoff team -- if it was reasonably healthy in the beginning, the middle, and the end. "At this point, Antonio McDyess' knee is as healed as it should be," Layden said. "He's had no setbacks. Indeed, while last season we were measuring his progress month to month, now it's day to day. Right now, he's running on an underwater treadmill in the whirlpool for 20 minutes -- and you know how strenuous that is -- and shooting in the gym for 20 minutes daily. With time, these workouts shall be increased. But the best thing is that his spirit is very good and his mental outlook is terrific. You can see it in his eyes, and by the expression on his face, how excited he is to be back on the court."
"He's a dedicated and willing worker. His focus and concentration is excellent. So his transition will be shorter than someone else's would be."
"Still, we'll take the conservative approach with him," added Layden. "We want to make sure he'll have a long and productive career for us. So there's no timetable for his return. But he'll be playing for this team this year."
Allan Houston has also had an arthroscopic knee procedure done over the summer. "I have no worries about Allan Houston," said Layden. "He's our best player, a veteran coming off of a great year, and he knows exactly what he's doing. He may be limited in some of the early practices, but that's all. He'll be ready."
Overall, Layden feels that "the roster is deep and balanced. We feel very excited about our increased versatility, the number of players we have who can shift, play a number of different positions, and play it well."
Added Layden. "Of course, in the NBA, the No. 1 most important thing is that guys play TOGETHER. And we have players who are willing to do just that. We like the makeup of our team."
[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]