NEW YORK -- On the court at the Knicks' training facility, there is a red "X" mark on each baseline corner. It's the area where Bruce Bowen hit daggers during the Spurs' championship runs, and since then every team has tried to find his clone.
The Knicks got close on Wednesday, when they signed stretch four Steve Novak for the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million (it's actually $1.1 million due to the lockout). While Novak is limited on defense, he's arguably the team's best answer in the corner.
"A lot of people don't know, but it's the closest 3-pointer you can shoot because the rest of the threes are further away," Novak said after his first practice with the Knicks on Friday. "So a lot of guys have made a living shooting corner threes, so I hope to be one of those guys."
Mike D'Antoni may play Novak "a little bit" during the Christmas Day season opener, but he doesn't have a long-term gameplan for him just yet. Nevertheless, Novak is excited about playing within D'Antoni's perimeter-oriented offense, especially as he foresees shooting opportunities opening up with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler drawing a lot of attention. Novak, who's regarded as the utmost professional, is also ready to buy into the team's new defensive motto.
"I think Coach D'Antoni is known for his offense and this year I think the focus is on defense," Novak said. "I could already feel it the way they were talking about it in the film room and stuff like that. I think going back to his days in Phoenix, he really made a name for himself with his offense that he runs. I think I help spread the floor and help with those double teams on Amare, Tyson and Melo."
After being released by the Spurs earlier in the week, which Novak expected, the Knicks picked up the 6-10 forward off waivers. He arrived in New York City just in time for a team dinner hosted by Stoudemire Wednesday night at Lure Fishbar in Soho. He reconnected with Chandler, who he played with in Dallas last season, and Baron Davis, his former teammate with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2008 to '10. In less than 48 hours, the Midwesterner, who grew up in Milwaukee, Wis., is already calling his teammates "a great group" and being in the big city "unbelievable."
"I think just because of the history of the city, the team, it makes it that much more special," said Novak, who will wear jersey number 16. "I mean, I've played with a lot of good players, but when you get to a city like New York, a lot of times you just go, 'Wow, they have really good fans.' Here, I feel like everyone's a fan. I've already heard from them on Twitter. You feel the energy. Every driver I've had, every cab driver I've had, has taught me about the Knicks. It's just different here."
During the offseason, Novak worked out with a private coach at his alma mater, Marquette University, the same campus where he once teamed up with Dwyane Wade. During Wade's last season with the Golden Eagles in 2002-03, Novak was a freshman. When they were in college together, Novak had a feeling the All-Star would be good, but not that good. Now, in order to reach the Finals, Novak and the Knicks will have to take out the Heat.
"They're going to be great," Novak said. "LeBron, D-Wade and those guys are just getting better and better. They have an urgency obviously this year I think similar to what we have. They're going to be a tough team to beat, no matter what night you play them."
After playing with Wade for the first time in a pickup game years ago, Novak remembers going home and telling his parents, "I think that guy's going to be an NBA player."
Maybe in May, it will be Wade returning a compliment after Novak hits the series-clinching 3-poniter.
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