WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- There’s always plenty of optimism at NBA media day. Every player is in the best shape of his career and every team is excited about what’s to come. And then the season starts, and some of the predictions and platitudes end up looking silly. So on days like this, a lot of the rhetoric feels empty.
“I’ve never played alongside a guy like Derrick,” Anthony said. “I’ve played alongside other point guards, different style, different type of point guards. To play alongside an explosive guy like Derrick, someone who can pick the pace up, who can push the pace throughout the course of the game, someone who’s a threat at that position -- I think for me, the only thing that I can do is go out there and play basketball and enjoy playing basketball again and having fun with the game.
"I’m excited. I haven’t felt like this in a long time.”
If this season is going to go the way the Knicks hope, it likely will be because Anthony and Rose play well together and off of one another. As ESPN analyst and ex-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy recently said, the play and health of Rose is the big unknown for the Knicks.
Rose, Anthony and many other Knicks have been scrimmaging together at the team facility and at a gym in Manhattan recently. Anthony said he likes what he has seen from Rose -- as well as the rest of his new teammates -- in those scrimmages.
“He’s extremely focused right now, he’s healthy, he has a different mindset, he has a clear mind and he’s ready to go and try to help us with our goals,” Anthony said of Rose, who is facing a civil suit alleging sexual assault, as well as a criminal investigation.
Rose said Monday that he's feeling great coming into the season -- thanks in part to a longer offseason (he missed the playoffs for the first time in his career). Rose also said he's trying to emulate Kobe Bryant's dribble efficiency this season.
"Every one of his dribbles leads him up to a great shot or puts him in a position to take a great shot," Rose said. "You rarely see too many people block his shots or even contest his shots. If they are, he finds a way to even get them up or just make a shot. That’s what I’m working towards."
Rose's presence is one reason why Anthony feels that there is more excitement surrounding this Knicks team than in years past, which gives him reason to be optimistic.
"The type of character guys that we have on this team, the work ethic that we have on this team, the focus level that everybody has, it's at an all-time high," he said, while noting that he's in great shape after playing in the Olympics.
“Joakim, he’s a character. He’s very intense, very emotional, and you can see that with his workouts, you can see that in the gym, you can see that playing pickup, just him in the weight room working. You can see the focus that these guys have. A guy who nobody really speaks about is Courtney Lee. I think he’s going to be a great addition to this team, a guy who comes in and does little things, does multiple things on the basketball court that a lot of people don’t talk about. And then we have another guy, Brandon Jennings; his focus right now is to win, is to play good basketball and to help us lead this team. He’s focused and everybody’s focused. The focus level is an all-time high.”
The Knicks hope that Anthony’s new teammates can take some of the pressure to score off of the 31-year-old. Anthony appreciates that, but he correctly pointed out on Monday that he will take a bulk of the blame in New York if things don’t go well.
“Let’s just be quite frank, at the end of the day, it’s going to take me being the best that I can be out there on the basketball court to make this successful alongside everybody doing their job and playing their role and being the best that they can be,” Anthony said. “... As far as taking the burden off of me, yeah, we put guys around on this team to go out there to perform at a very high level, so some of the pressure is off of me. But at the end of the day, [the media knows] as well as I do that the pressure is definitely on me. So, I accept that. I think that’s the beauty in this. I embrace it. I love those challenges. I love having my back against the wall. I love being in a situation where we can create something and be successful. I’m looking forward to all those pressures and all those challenges, and I’ll take it head-on.”
Porzingis looking forward to playing center: Kristaps Porzingis played about a quarter of his minutes at center last season, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, who cites Nylon Calculus' estimates. With Noah on the roster, it doesn’t seem as if Porzingis will play many more minutes at center this season. But that doesn’t mean he isn't excited to spend some time at center -- and play at a quicker pace -- this season.
“I think that will benefit my game, playing at [center] too and playing quicker basketball and running up and down,” Porzingis said. “My ability to stretch the floor, if I’m at the 5, the paint is going to be completely open. So I think the style of basketball that we’re going to be playing is going to be better for the people that we have, especially with Derrick being able to push the ball up, and with his quickness, he’s going to open things for us, driving and kicking out.
"I know we’re going to have space in the paint, as well; we didn’t have so much last season.”