After five years playing in the D-League, Belgium, Germany, Holland and Spain, Chris Copeland, an Orange, N.J., native, is back close to home as a member of the Knicks. After signing with the team to a non-guaranteed contract, the 6-8, 224-pound versatile forward is ready to prove he's here to stay.
Here's Copeland's conversation with ESPNNewYork.com:
Q: How have you been? What's new on your end?
Copeland: A whole lot of everything. It's a crazy experience for me right now. Everything's moving a lot different than what I'm used to, but it's an exciting time for me.
Q: How many new Twitter followers do you have now?
Copeland: I'm not even on Twitter. I'm about to delete Twitter [laughs]. I haven't even promoted myself on there at all. I haven't checked on there in a long time. My Facebook is definitely more used now, though.
Q: Well if you were on Twitter, you'd know that Knicks fans are really passionate. They know their basketball.
Copeland: Hopefully I give them something to be excited about.
Q: They're definitely excited about your game based on Vegas summer league. They love your hairstyle, first of all. Are you going to keep it next season?
Copeland: Absolutely, absolutely. I have no intention of cutting it. Woody hasn't given me any worry about it. As long as I'm good there, I intend on keeping it for a while [laughs].
Q: Well, he has his goatee. If he can keep that, you should be able to keep the hair.
Copeland: Exactly [laughs].
Q: So I know you're from New Jersey. You must love coming back to New York City.
Copeland: Yeah, it's an amazing city. It's crazy that I got the opportunity to play somewhere that's so close to home. I have a lot of family that's in the area. It's just great to be back. There's so much going on out there, but I'm really just trying to get on that court. That's really where I'm most excited about.
Q: What are some of your favorite places in the city?
Copeland: Just being in Times Square is amazing. It's one of those places where you can zone out and be like, "Wow." It doesn't get old to me. Times Square is great. One of my favorite places is actually Serafina's to eat.
Q: What were your first emotions when you signed with the Knicks?
Copeland: It's a dream come true. It was amazing. I was in Vegas, so I didn't have the opportunity to celebrate with my family or anything like that. I talked to my mom about it. I actually didn't want to celebrate. At the end of the day, nothing is guaranteed, I still have a lot of work to do ahead of me. I'm just super thankful that they gave me the opportunity in the first place. I'm going to go out there and just work hard, and hopefully make sure I stick.
Q: Why do you think the stars aligned for you now in your career to finally be in the NBA, after several years in the D-League and overseas?
Copeland: I don't know. It's just such a blessing. At the end of the day, my game has grown. I think I'm more ready now than I've ever been. I will continue to get better. All my experiences overseas have given me the opportunity to go and have this chance. I think I've learned a lot over the years and I think that's why the stars have aligned. I showed that I've grown as a player and that's why they gave me this opportunity.
Q: Did you have a sense that the Knicks would sign you before summer league, or did you realize that during your time in Vegas?
Copeland: A little bit of both. It was pretty much I knew beforehand what their plans were, but at the end of the day, I had to continue to show that I belonged in that situation because nothing was guaranteed.
Q: What did you want to prove during summer league to make sure it was guaranteed?
Copeland: My mentality was just to make a name, go out there and show that I belong and that I had a lot of abilities on the court. I think I did a pretty decent job of that. I took a lot of advice from coach Woody. He just wanted me to expand my game, so he gave me a lot of things to keep on my mind mentally when I was on the floor -- not to be just a scorer, because that's what I've always been, but to try to create for others and show my defensive capabilities as well.
Q: What has Woody taught you about defense that you'll look to bring to the Knicks next season?
Copeland: Just energy. It depends on what position I'll be guarding. I can defend a lot of positions. Sometimes, I might be undersized, so I've got to use speed and quickness. If I'm guarding wings, then I can use my size. I should be able to be a versatile defender. It just depends on the matchup of the night.
Q: Has he given you a sense of what your role and playing time might be?
Copeland: There's nothing specific now. I think it's too early in the game for me to have a solid role, but I think in training camp, a lot of things will be defined. We'll go from there.
Q: Your situation is interesting to me. While your contract is non-guaranteed -- the Knicks don't have to pay you past early January -- you're one of the few players on the team who can post up and play inside. Amare Stoudemire is the only true power forward on the roster. Do you believe there's a window for you to play right away and maybe backup Amare?
Copeland: That's my goal, to be a big part of the team. Whatever they ask me to do. Like I said, I'm just glad to be there in the first place, and if I can work my way into that position, that'll be fantastic for me. I've got to take it day by day and just work out.
Q: What are your plans for the rest of the offseason?
Copeland: I'm bouncing around. I actually just got back from Houston. I'm in Virginia now playing in Richmond. I went to high school out here. I'm playing in a Richmond Pro-Am out here. I'll be going back to Colorado. I'm just bouncing around and trying to play as much as I can, and train with different people in the mornings. I'm just trying to stay as ready as possible. I train with a lot of different NBA guys. Mike Davis from Virginia, that's who I'm working with now. He's been coaching me since I was a kid. In Virginia right now, I'm with [Bobcats swingman] Reggie Williams and [former Boston College Eagle] Tyrese Rice. We work out together. I'll probably get up with Chauncey [Billups] in Colorado -- different guys I can learn from and guys that have had NBA experience. They teach me a lot.
I'll actually be heading to New York in the next two weeks. I'm supposed to be going out there at some point for the rookie transition program. And my girlfriend is actually from out there.
Q: Who are some of your favorite NBA players of all time?
Copeland: [Allen] Iverson, Penny [Hardaway] and T-Mac [Tracy McGrady] are the three names. They were the guys that I really looked up to growing up. I liked Penny and T-Mac because they have large frames, they're tall guys, and they can score and pass. They could do everything on the court, like Iverson as well.
Q: Finally, what do you enjoy off the court?
Copeland: Nothing special. If I'm not with my girlfriend watching movies or whatever, I hang out with my friends. We play video games and listen to music.
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