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P&T interviews NBA trainer David Zenon

The emerging trainer expresses thoughts on Knicks’ youth movement, RJ’s potential, and proper player development.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Sometimes a change of plans can be what is needed in order to make legitimate progress, especially in sports. I’m not saying this to appease any New York Knicks fans, who might still want feel negative about this offseason’s turn of events, but to offer some perspective. The Knicks, even with all of their failed hopes and dreams of having a “killer” draft and free agency, are still in the position to create a brighter future.

This is a thought some across the league have believed in, including trainer David Zenon. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because David has recently emerged as a go-to trainer for the pros. Having to worked with several NBA players, David is very knowledgeable of the game. But it’s his story which makes him the right person to talk to, especially about the Knicks.

Before his recent success, David was someone who started from the bottom and never lost sight of his end goal. Whether it was operating the shot clock for the Westchester Knicks or using his last dollars to coach and travel all over Westchester County, David used his strong work ethic to ultimately accomplish some of his biggest dreams.

I had the chance to speak with David about the Knicks’ summer thus far.

Arden: During this year’s Summer League, what stood out most in relations to the Knicks?

David: It was a few things. First of all, I thought Kevin (Knox) looked more comfortable shooting the three ball and played more aggressively. Mitchell (Robinson) consistently showed his potential as a great rim protector and rebounder, and despite his foul troubles at times, his feel and energy for the game was evident.

And for RJ Barrett, it was his progression. Yes, he struggled in various areas, but he finished off the Summer League with two consecutive double-doubles and played with great pace and focus. I was very encouraged by those three players in particular.

A: A lot of folks talk about the transition a rookie has to make to the NBA, but what about those players entering year No. 2? Especially Kevin and Mitchell?

D: The biggest transition is with their efficiency. During their rookie seasons, they’re adjusting to the game, as it’s their first time going through it. But at this point of their careers, they will learn more inner details about who they are and why teams are defending them a certain way. It’s a must for them to make “that jump,” be prepared, and eliminate any rookie-like mistakes.

A: How can Coach Fizdale manage them the right way?

D: Coach Fizdale has to continue valuing player development. Those players must buy into his system and play hard every night. I know their record from last season would make it seem as if they didn’t, but if you watched the Knicks, you saw they were. By buying into the culture, it sets the tone for their competitiveness, habits and outlook moving forward.

A: In recent years, the Knicks have gotten the most from former first-round picks who didn’t live up to the hype on opposing teams. Is that a big deal or no?

D: Oh, absolutely. The Knicks’ front office has been able to pinpoint certain things from those guys and help them along the way, as those same guys are willing, hard workers. The front office has their vision for who they want to build this culture, as they often have the right personalities and just work. I mean, just take a look at who they signed this offseason. This team will be filled with some “dawgs” and won’t be afraid of the noise that’s coming from Broadway.

A: You’ve gotten various chances to spend a lot of time with Zion and RJ this past season. But to focus on RJ, what makes him the right fit for this team?

D: Although I know plenty of fans wanted Zion as a Knick, the team did just fine with RJ being selected at No. 3. I love the kid and can say with ease how much of a great talent he is. And despite how cliche my next statement may sound, RJ is honestly a better person than he is a player.

I think back to before the draft when I was filming a commercial with Zion and RJ. A lot of players would be annoyed and push people away during the course of an eight-hour commercial shoot, but not RJ. He loved every minute of it and took the chance to meet everybody and learn new things.

But to focus on basketball again, the Knicks really got a “dawg” in him. Seriously, he’s the truth.

A: What would be the ideal situation for the 2019 Knicks rookie class?

D: From what I’ve seen, plus the times I’ve spoken to RJ, I know he really wants to work on his jump shot. I’m not his trainer, so I can’t discuss the inner details of his game, but I can confidentially say RJ wants to improve his jumper. And for Iggy, I believe he’s a “diamond in the rough” player. He’s incredibly tough and can be great.

What makes him so good is the fact he really knows the game and has actually played with RJ during their time together on Team Canada (U18). And not to mention, Iggy played under John Beilein (former Michigan and current Cleveland Cavaliers head coach), so you know he’s very prepared.

A: Last question I have for ya. As crazy as this may sound, could this summer possibly be the best thing that could have happened to the Knicks?

D: It honestly could be, in all seriousness. I could see all sides of the spectrum, as you know through my connections in and out of the league, but I like to think of it as the “glass being half-empty.” Of course, it would have been great to land the likes of Zion, Kyrie, and KD, but with a front office and scouting department that’s been somewhat successful thus far, you must have faith in those guys. I know I do. Plus there’s a valuable lesson to learn in building the right way and not forcing anything.