dantoni is making me a bit optimistic about this season.
i also wondered why we never ran the pick n pop....zachs signature play from portland....i can see zach playing a boris diaw role at center....gettin the elbow shots from the free throw line like money
As much as Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni have said players such as Zach Randolph have a "clean slate" this season, it is Randolph who has wiped it clean for the new regime as well.
"It's a better atmosphere, a different atmosphere than last year," he said. "We're just focused on basketball. We're focused on winning games."
Last season, Randolph had issues with Isiah Thomas, who acquired him in a trade on draft night in June 2007. He once wondered aloud why Thomas even brought him to New York. Late in the season, when the wheels had officially fallen off, a bitter Randolph argued with teammates and even squirted water at Nate Robinson during a timeout.
During the offseason, Randolph knew he was among the unwanted as training camp approached. He heard from his agent about the trade talk and knows the Knicks would have preferred to jettison his $48-million contract, which has three hefty years left and compromises their plans in 2010.
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But like another persona non grata, Stephon Marbury, he's here right now. And thus far Randolph is buying in, giving an honest effort in camp and following the direction of the man he respectfully refers to as "Coach D'Antoni."
"Whatever he wants me to do," said Randolph, 27, "that's what I'm going to do."
You would think D'Antoni and Randolph would get along great because they both believe in the same philosophy: shoot early and shoot often.
But the concern with Randolph, who averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds last season, is more about his ability - make that willingness - to run the floor. He and Eddy Curry together were a nightmare in transition defense, let alone in the half-court set.
But after a week of training camp, D'Antoni has seen not only some pleasantly surprising offensive options with Randolph but a pleasing amount of effort running the floor.
A new attitude? Maybe it's the result of whatever rubbed off on him after working out with Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and others at UCLA during the summer.
"He's probably in better shape than what I thought he would be in because I didn't see him much in September," D'Antoni said. "But he did the whole camp, ran, and I'm happy about it."
And Randolph is happy about the idea of playing a great deal of pick-and-pop on the perimeter, which is something Thomas rarely utilized last season. The pin-downs D'Antoni likes to do with his bigs - starting at the top of the key and screening for a guard down low - also give him plenty of opportunities for one-on-ones on the post.
"They won't be able to double quick on me," Randolph said, "so I'll have a man on my back and I can play and make a quick move."
D'Antoni doesn't yet know what he can do with Curry, who missed the entire week of camp in Saratoga Springs with a bacterial infection, so Randolph's scoring ability in the frontcourt is critical for the Knicks, who are perimeter-laden.
Randolph started camp along with Marbury outside the apparent "Fav Five," but by the end of the week, he was working with the possible starting unit. It's a sign that Randolph is solidifying his place in D'Antoni's rotation.
"Hell, yeah," Randolph said. "Since I've been doing it and working and learning, I feel a lot better, instead of just hearing about it. I'm still learning. I don't know it all yet, but pretty soon I'm going to have it down."
Notes & quotes: Curry felt better over the weekend and his status for today's practice was upgraded to questionable ... If you're looking for more evidence that the Knicks have become far more media-friendly under Walsh and D'Antoni, tune in to NBAtv today at 11 a.m. to catch a live broadcast of the team's practice at the MSG Training Center. NBAtv does this regularly with teams but never asked the Knicks in the past