With all of the chaos in the Knicks locker room after games, as many reporters await Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler's arrival from the showers, rookie Josh Harrellson never looks rushed or bothered. Jorts is one the most jovial players on the team.
After the Raptors game on Monday night, I caught up with Josh Harrellson for about five minutes. We talked about his adjustment to the team offensively and defensively, outplaying his former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins on Saturday and the fallout from that, the influx of Kentucky players in the NBA, his first West Coast road trip and any rookie hazing he's had to parkate in so far.
Here is our one-on-one convo:
Zwerling: Do you think sometimes you guys stand around and watch Melo too much?
Harrellson: Yeah, when you watch the tape, a lot of us do that -- just stand there and watch him, and expect him to make the big plays. A lot is put on his shoulders. I mean, he was making big plays all night [against the Raptors]. For us to keep trying to go through him at the end of the game, that's a lot of pressure on him, but he did a terrific job. We've got complete faith in him and every time he has the ball, he's one of the best in the game.
Zwerling: After guarding talented scorer Andrea Bargnani, what are you learning on the defensive end?
Harrellson: I mean, he's a great player. Amare said, "Just stay down on his pump fakes, just make him shoot over you. He's a great shooter. He's going to make a couple of those, but hopefully if you can stay in front of him and keep down on his pump fakes, hopefully you can contest him and make him miss those kinds of shots."
Zwerling: Are you starting to feel more comfortable in the offense?
Harrellson: Yeah. Our offense is mainly through Melo and Amare, but those guys create open shots for a lot of us. Tonight, nobody's shot was falling. Toney started making shots late in the game, but that wasn't enough to get us fueled because we had to play so much catch up during the game.
Zwerling: Off topic, but did you follow what happened with your former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins?
Harrellson: Yeah, I just saw some tweets, but I heard he's back on the team now and he traveled with them, so I'm happy for him. Hopefully, he keeps his head in the game and just keeps pushing through it.
Zwerling: What was it like going up against him on Saturday night against the Kings?
Harrellson: It was awesome. I had to guard him every day in practice, and he got the best of me for an entire year [from 2009-10]. Just to be able to prove my game and to come out and play against him, with so many different things I've improved on, to get the best of him for once made me feel good.
Zwerling: In addition to DeMarcus, you have four other Wildcat teammates in the league: John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson (from 2009-10) and Brandon Knight (from 2010-11). Are you guys pretty close?
Harrellson: Yeah, I think we've got 15 players in the league from Kentucky, and every time we see one of our old Kentucky players, we just talk because we've all played against each other -- summer league or played against each other when we're back at Kentucky. So to be able to play against guys like that, when I've been playing with them all this past summer, it's nice to get on the other team for once.
Zwerling: Brandon is looking pretty good coming off the bench for the Pistons, averaging 11.2 points per game.
Harrellson: Yeah, he's doing well, and I'll be seeing him soon, too, [on Saturday in Detroit] and John Wall [on Friday in Washington].
Zwerling: And how about this year's Kentucky team with Anthony Davis and Co? They have six players in double-digit scoring.
Harrellson: Yeah, like I said, I think we have 15 this year. I'm thinking they're going to put about another three or four next year. I think before long, there will be a Kentucky player on every team in the NBA.
Zwerling: So how was that first road trip for you on the West Coast?
Harrellson: It was a good experience. You learn a lot about your body. It's mainly about mentality, just going out there and being focused every day for every game, every practice, every walk-through. It takes a lot on you, flying from New York to California. That's literally across the country and then flying back, and playing a day after we get back. So you can tell early in the game and late in the game [against the Raptors] that it kind of got to us. Our legs weren't all there. But that's just something we've just got to learn to push through and be mentally focused to come ready to play.
Zwerling: Did you celebrate New Year's on the plane?
Harrellson: Nah, we didn't get back until about 5:30 Sunday morning, so we kind of celebrated it on the plane. We couldn't do much, so we just kind of counted down with each other right before we took off, and then I hit the sack.
Zwerling: By the way, any rookie duties so far?
Harrellson: Not much yet, besides I've got to go buy soap, lotion and deodorant for everybody on the team for the Garden and for the practice facility. Other than that, they're not bad on it.
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