Today marks the first day of the New York Knicks training camp. To mark the occasion, the Knicks held...Content Day.
What’s a Content Day, you ask? “Your chance to hear from the 2022-’23 squad!” claimed the feed’s placeholder graphic. Indeed. I sat through the event, which was live-streamed through the team’s YouTube channel, and can attest that it met all of my expectations.
Sometimes the trains don’t run on time. Scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m., the video feed finally arrived about 10-15 minutes late. It revealed a media village that had been established in a gym, presumably the team’s White Plains facility. Tables and photoshoot sets were stationed throughout the tented-off court. Wires snaked here and there.
Central to this loosely-organized affair was Monica McNutt, tasked with interviewing current Knick players. She wore a fetching blue ensemble, the guys wore their jerseys, and you can guess the format: low-stress, team-approved questions with safe answers and rote statements about the upcoming season.
RJ Barrett wandered into view first. Sources report that you can buy a very fine alarm clock with $120 million. After a brief hello, McNutt went for the jugular: “How did you navigate the rumors?” (Referring to reports that RJ was included in off-season trade offers.)
RJ answered with an easy-going ramble, saying ultimately, “I don’t pay any attention to any of that stuff.” Ultimately, he seemed pleased with how the summer turned out. Upon signing his extension with the team, “I hugged my mom...I did the happy dance for a little bit.”
McNutt continued her interrogation of the 22-year-old Canadian. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” she said. “Is RJ Barrett capable of being That Guy?”
Deflecting the question, RJ provided his definition of That Guy. “He’s really smart. He’s a winner…. Just having another guy with a winning mindset on the team is gonna be good for us.” Evasion was a smart move on the small forward’s part. New Knick Jalen Brunson might think of himself as That Guy. Julius Randle, too. It’s too soon to ruffle feathers and bruise egos. Well played Maple Mamba.
Asked about the upcoming campaign, RJ said, “I get better every year. I’m excited…hungry and motivated.”
The brief interview concluded, Monica took a selfie with him using a disposable camera.
Next, Jalen Brunson drifted over, said his hellos while RJ exited, and commented on the coldness of the gym. Asked about the upcoming season, Brunson stuck to the script. “Feels good…there’s an energy in here that I’m really excited about.”
He zagged, however, when McNutt asked for a personal description. “I think a good word to describe myself is trending. I feel I’m trending upward.” He added, “My work ethic has been same since I was a little kid.”
He anticipates lots of positive in-game communication with head coach Tom Thibodeau and called RJ, “A great talent...a hard worker.”
Verily, McNutt seemed underwhelmed by the exchange and glanced away quickly upon its conclusion. Note: she offered no selfie.
It sounds like Stefan Bondy got meatier answers later on from the new lead guard:
Jalen Brunson says his free agency “was awful” because of how public it got. Says the league hasn’t contacted him for tampering investigation— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) September 26, 2022
From there, the camera operator went on a walkabout. We found Derrick Rose, mid-photoshoot, which RJ briefly photobombed. Elsewhere, Brunson sat at a folding table across from three people who appeared to be pitching charity causes and goodwill events. Based on Brunson’s slouch and the look on the others’ faces, our new point guard seemed unenthused. I like JB. He saves his energy for the games.
Then—whoa! Here he comes, folks! The camera weaved back over to McNutt just as Julius Randle sauntered in for his session. Of any Knick, Randle is historically the most likely to let his emotions slip. I straightened with anticipation, hoping he brought a new message for the fans, with or without thumbs and expletives.
Annnd the audio cut out. Very cunning, Leon Rose, lurking in the wings and yanking out audio cords. The sound finally faded back in at the conversation’s end, in time for McNutt’s “two words” question. Randle’s reply: “Fun and energetic.” Let’s hope. They posed for a selfie together, too.
Julius Randle on learning about leadership last season:— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) September 26, 2022
“When it’s good, it’s easy to be a leader. When things aren’t as good and you’re going through adversity, I think it’s even more important. So, I learned a lot.”
After Julius, Obi Toppin wandered over, glowing with his usual charm and internal combustion engine. Obi looks forward to “doing whatever I can to help the team win.” And he’s been grinding it out in the off-season. “I worked on three-pointers, post, defense… literally, anything I could work on. I was working out in LA....Then I came back here with Coach Thibs for the past couple months. It’s been a hardworking summer.”
He said that the team is “determined...we didn’t make it to the playoffs last year. We have the mindset that we can’t let that happen again.”
No selfie, but an energetic goodbye. Monica is obviously a fan, and why not? Obi has his own gravity.
Next up was a slimmed-down Derrick Rose who claimed to have, “Cut off my sugar intake.”
Regarding last season, he joked about not wanting to be the guy in street clothes at the end of the bench, not in the game but directing players. Now that he’s back and healthy, Derrick intends to have a louder voice and be a team leader.
He has known Brunson since Jalen was in high school and said that the key to New York’s success this season is, “Holding everybody accountable… As long as we hold everybody accountable, we should go pretty far.”
No selfie for him, either. Interesting. Does McNutt have favorites? Discuss.
We cut to RJ being interviewed by the precocious neophyte, Jazlyn Guerra (of something called Jazzy’s World TV?). She’s a cute kid, and I’m sure MSG will use this in a “fun” segment later on. She peppered RJ with questions about favorite shoes (spoiler: Rj Barrett PEs from Puma, of course) and food (pesto gnocchi, chicken alfredo). RJ did say that he would pursue law if hadn’t been a hooper. His grandfather is an attorney in NYC. Who knew?
Back in McNutt’s area, Mitchell Robinson made his appearance. The Lobness Monster asserted that he has worked on his “post moves, jump hooks...shooting a lot of threes, gotta get those up.” The big Cajun added that he’s been “working on my discipline” at the foul line. And he plans to keep his arms up on defense, to commit fewer fouls.
Selfie time! Mitch operated the camera and my God, his arms are long.
More photography followed. Asked by the cameraman about his height, RJ claimed to be 6’7”. I’m sending a request to Puma: with a little more sole on the shoe, our boy can reach 6’8”.
Next to be interviewed was Evan Fournier, fresh off a loss in the EuroBasket title game. Despite not taking gold, he called it “a good experience, as always.” Participating in EuroBasket means that Evan arrives “in game shape. I don’t really have to fight that through training camp.”
Asked what the Knicks need to improve upon this season, he said, “Playing better at home. We were actually good on the road, playing 500 basketball… We need to have more confidence at home. MSG is such a special place, sometimes you can put a little bit of pressure on your shoulder. And so when you go out on the road, it’s like ok, you’re free of all that...and so you play better. It should be the opposite.”
Asked about Brunson, he said, “He had one hell of a run with the Mavs in the playoffs.... As a shooter, when you have a point guard that can really get into the paint and find you....” He broke into a smile. “I’m excited.”
For all my whining about the Knicks not trading Evan to make room for the younger players, I do still like Fournier. He gives thoughtful answers.
And Evan gets a selfie!
Over at one of the photo sets, Julius and the photographer are overheard discussing Tai Chi. Not gonna lie, it’s kinda fun to be a fly on the wall for some of this stuff. And, also, Randle seems very personable, very relaxed. Maybe the Tai Chi is working. We could be in for a great season if Randle’s head is in the right place.
RJ stopped by the Randle shoot, then Brunson joined in. Everyone’s playing nice so far. Elsewhere, at Robinson’s photoshoot, helpers sprayed aerosol cans for smoke effects. I’ll remember that when MSG flashes the image during the season.
Next, Immanuel Quickley graced McNutt with his presence, and she wanted a selfie straightaway!
Like Fournier, Quickley gives thorough answers. Asked what he’s focused on this off-season, Quickley said, “I’ve been working on my strength. Been in the weight room a lot… Trying to be a two-way player, so being able to guard a lot bigger guards. Getting in the lane, finishing around the rim has been big for me. I think this year, I’m going to be able to do that as well.”
How does he think the strength will help? “You want to be able to be on the floor as much as possible. So, being able to guard other players. I think everybody knows me for my offense, but being able to play on the other side of the ball is something I’m trying to do.”
What skills has he been developing? “Everything….My biggest thing I’ve been working on is my passing, finishing around the rim, that’s something I continue to work on. And my mid-range game.”
Quickley offered high praise for Jalen Brunson. “First of all, you got to start with him as a person. He’s a great teammate, great locker room guy, somebody you want to be around when you’re not talking about basketball. And when you’re talking about basketball, he has all the intangibles, can play with our without the ball, can score, creates for him teammates, defends, winning culture...great teammate.”
Prompted by McNutt, he said, “My best basketball looks like a two-way guard, playing with or without the ball, being able to defend some of the best players in the league, and making shots.... And from a team perspective: playing together, everybody touching the ball, getting in the lane, creating for each other, and defending.”
He called the team “Underrated and determined… When I got here, we went to the playoffs. Last year we didn’t go to the playoffs. So we’re trying to get back there this year.”
IQ is a natural at this.
McNutt wandered over to the Jazlyn, and they took a picture together, too. (Sorry, Jalen. The selfie slight was surely an oversight.)
Usually, the kid-interviews-adult segment is a snoozefest for yours truly, but I split a gut laughing when Jazlyn opined, “I feel like a lot of reporters ask really boring questions...I feel like they don’t really have conversations with people.”
I concur, kid.
Thus concluded the end of the YouTube feed. It seems that the media got a chance to interview players after all, based on tweets that are starting to come in. Sick ’em, Berman!