Beno Udrih took his time in free agency, even with the Knicks in hot pursuit. But this week, after a meeting with the team on Monday, he realized there was something special brewing in New York, sacrificing money to don the blue and orange.
"I'm very happy to be back on a playoff team and we definitely can make a run for a title," he told ESPNNewYork.com.
New York Knicks
On Friday, Udrih talked about his decision to join the Knicks, his thoughts on the team and his role, and what he learned from his two championships with the Spurs in 2005 and '07. Here is Part 1 of our exclusive interview:
How soon did the Knicks opportunity come about for you in free agency?
"They contacted my agent and the Knicks sent me a video of Madison Square Garden -- actually on July 1. So they were always interested in me, but I just wanted to keep my options open and just look everywhere to see what would be the best situation for me. It took one month and the Knicks were really pursuing me. I talked to my wife and we thought this would be a very good fit, a good team. I'm very happy to be back on a playoff team and we definitely can make a run for a title."
What did you learn about what it takes to become a champion during your time in San Antonio that you hope to bring to New York?
"What it takes is just to be a team and to definitely have good players. There has to be chemistry and everything has to be right. That's how it was in San Antonio basically. Tim Duncan didn't care who scored the most points. He's a Hall of Famer, but he was more about the team. He just wanted us to win. Sometimes he scored 30, and the next day he scored 10, but he still was very, very productive in rebounding. Everybody has to work for each other, especially on the defensive end. I think we have enough scorers on our team now, but we definitely got to step up and basically defend first and then rebound the ball."
After the Spurs, you spent some time with losing teams, but you still played well. Now, you're in a more competitive situation. How important was that in your decision taking less money?
"Very important. Sacramento and Orlando basically are rebuilding teams. I was very happy to be there and get my opportunity. I had a couple good years there. In Milwaukee, I didn't get enough chance to play there to help the team as much as I could. But that's how it is. So now, it's a new chapter in my life. I decided to come to New York because it was definitely a big decision to come to a team that's definitely going to be in the playoffs. The organization, I think, is one of the best organizations in the world basically."
As you probably saw, the Knicks' offense became too stagnant in the playoffs, especially against the Pacers. What about your game will help keep their half-court system flowing?
"I think definitely I will help. What I love to do is run the pick-and-roll and get my teammates open, and get them open shots. When the opportunity comes, I shoot myself, especially from midrange. I just like to make sure that everybody touches the ball and the ball is moving very smoothly, so there's no stoppage of the game. That's what I've been trying to do all my career, and I think I do it pretty well. We have a lot of scorers around, so I think I'm a really good fit for this team."
So, have you envisioned that moment entering the Garden for the first time?
"I didn't think of that yet. It still hasn't hit me, but I'm really, really excited to be here. The fans are basically the best. What I like about the Knicks fans is every time I was playing against the Knicks, they actually know basketball. You have some fans around the league that just like the show, but they don't know really basketball inside out. And I think New York fans actually really look into the details of basketball, so they know basketball inside out. That's the kind of feeling I get from the fans."
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