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The D'Antoni Factor

Workout season is upon us, which means we finally get to hear up-and-coming rookies remark on their futures. I understand that the words of NBA prospects are calculated and fraught with self-pimping, but right from the outset you can get a sense of what the name Mike D'Antoni means to a young player. From yesterday's workouts:

Excitement and enthusiasm poured out of West Virginia's Joe Alexander and Arizona's Chase Budinger after their predraft workouts Wednesday at the New York Knicks' training facility.

The reason was simple, both players said. The arrival of coach Mike D'Antoni and his high-powered, wide-open offense has suddenly made the sad-sack Knicks a destination team for talented and athletic players who like to run and shoot.

"I would love to play in this system," said Alexander, a 6-8 junior who emerged as a dynamic offensive player last season, averaging 16.9 points. "Watching coach D'Antoni in Phoenix and what they did, I always thought I would be a perfect fit for that system."

"This was a great first workout," said Budinger, a 6-7 sophomore whose 40-inch vertical leap and all-around athleticism would seem tailor-made for D'Antoni's style of play. "A high-profile team, a new coach. It was very exciting."

Granted, Alexander and Budinger are two guys who might need to help themselves climb into the top-10 by saying the right things, but the fact that they're both honing in on Coach Mike's presence is important. Meanwhile, guys like Russell Westbrook (who also worked out yesterday) and Jerryd Bayless are also talking up the notion of playing under D'Antoni. These sorts of things bode well and lend credence to the idea that a new system under a new coach might restore New York's status as a desirable destination for rookies and free agents alike.