Sasha Vujacic discusses Knicks recruitment, belief in triangle offense

Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer

Carmelo Anthony may be considered Phil Jackson’s centerpiece, but he surely won’t be the only leader when the Knicks hit the hardwood.

Following a near four-year absence from the NBA (save for a four-game stint with the Clippers in between), Sasha Vujacic is now prepared to resume his stateside career in New York. This latest gig reunites him alongside Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, with whom he won two NBA championships in Los Angeles.

NBA: New York Knicks-Media Day

Vujacic is 31 years old, but is still very much in his basketball career after staying active overseas. He expects to contribute for the Knicks, adding that his NBA absence was by choice following the 2011 lockout.

And while the guard had known for a while that he was planning on returning to the NBA, he said that it was the Knicks who reached out to him, and not necessarily the other way around. His acquisition was of no simple favor to him, but once a couple familiar faces reached out, Vujacic knew where he was headed.

“They followed me when I was in Europe. They spoke through my agent,” he said of Jackson and Fisher’s involvement in recruiting him. “I knew there were teams that wanted me back, but I knew where I wanted to be. Once [the Knicks called], there were no other options. That’s really something I wanted. This is where I wanted to be.”

In addition to spreading the floor as a combo guard in the triangle offense (Many Knicks guards conveyed Monday they believe the two-guard positions are interchangeable in the triangle. Vujacic’s versatile skill set is a testament to that.) and working the pick and roll, Vujacic is sure to be a mentor for the younger players, as well as somewhat of a tutor and educator with regard to the triangle offense.

Vujacic called Kristaps Porzingis “the biggest steal of the draft” after competing against him in Europe last season last season. What’s more, Vujacic still believes in the triangle offense, and was very hesitant to consider it an outdated system. He even provided proof.

“It’s the most winning offense in basketball. It’s been proven. It’s been around for a long time,” he said. “If you look around the NBA, especially during the playoffs, there were plenty of teams that were playing triangle.”

Training camp officially begins on Tuesday, but many Knicks revealed that most players have been coming together at the practice facility to work out over the last three weeks. And while one might think this is a common occurrence, merely par for the course, Vujacic insisted it was “special.”

“We’ve had a lot of players here three weeks before camp. That says a lot,” he said. “Myself and the other players have been working really hard, and that’s a good indication that we want to give our everything to what lies ahead.”


Carmelo Anthony ready to lead, just not in a vocal way

Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer

Since Phil Jackson took over as Knicks president in March 2014, Carmelo Anthony is the only player remaining as the team enters 2015 training camp.

Anthony insisted that was “a good thing,” adding that it’s proof Jackson still believes in him. The Knicks would have lost him for nothing, but Jackson did in fact have an opportunity to let Anthony go last offseason. He didn’t. That would have allowed New York to truly start fresh, but Jackson and co. appear to have faith in the forward as the centerpiece for what comes next.

NBA: New York Knicks-Media Day

Returning from a knee injury following a dismal 17-win season, Anthony is expected to step up as more of a leader in hopes of helping the Knicks change their fortunes. Just don’t expect to hear him shout or see him get too animated on the court.

“I’ll lead in my own way. For me to say that I’ll be more vocal, I’ll speak up from time to time, but that simply isn’t who I am,” Anthony said on Monday. “That’s not my personality. If you saw that on the court, you’d think, ‘oh, Melo is bugging out. What is he doing?'”

Although Anthony insisted him stepping up as a leader isn’t a popular narrative in the media, he’s still there. “You guys don’t see it,” he said, adding that he isn’t someone to be “very outgoing, yelling and screaming, and getting on teammates.”

For the Knicks, success needs to come in the form of evident progress this season, regardless of what comes out of Anthony’s mouth. Winning more games compared to last season speaks much louder than words.

Further discussing his leadership style, Anthony lamented that he’s a more rational thinker, rather than airing out his or the team’s dirty laundry.

“Will I talk to [his teammates] on the side and figure things out in my own way? Yeah, I’ll do that,” he said.

Perhaps Arron Afflalo’s arrival in New York should be somewhat proof that Anthony’s leadership style works for some. The two have been good friends dating back to their days together on the Nuggets.

“Melo’s been great,” Afflalo said on Monday. “He’s been highly influential in my career as a teammate. Very influential in me coming here.”


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GEICO SportsNite: Media Day

Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Isola discuss the expectations for the Knicks at Media Day.


Will Knicks soon opt to start Jerian Grant over Jose Calderon?

Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer

There’s a lot of pressure on the Knicks to succeed this season, and while much of that begins with Carmelo Anthony, there’s no doubt the star forward could use a more reliable supporting cast than the one he was given last season.

Following his acquisition last summer, Jose Calderon was expected to play a big role in New York’s transition to the triangle offense. But he struggled throughout, boasting a career-low in field-goal percentage. His numbers across the board were well lower than expected. NBA: Miami Heat at New York Knicks

Speaking to reporters at Monday’s media day, Calderon said nagging injuries plagued him, even when he managed to get back on the court. “There was always something going on, and I couldn’t be out there at 100 percent,” he admitted.

Calderon is one of the few returning Knicks from last season. Much like Anthony, the guard said he was simply “trying to forget what happened” as a new training camp begins. “I have to work on being healthy this season,” the veteran who turned 34 on Monday added.

But perhaps such an effort will be too little, too late. The Knicks can’t afford to struggle out of the gate, or at the very least, as much as they did early on last season.

Calderon was healthy in the beginning of the season and the team still couldn’t find a rhythm. If such struggles are any indication as to what Calderon is capable of in the triangle, New York may be smart to have a shorter leash on him as a starter.

Should that be the case, the Knicks appear ready to rely upon incoming rookie Jerian Grant, if not also to count on him as a starter in the near future. Speaking to the media last Friday, Jackson praised the youngster and said that he specially scouted Grant, who is the nephew of former Bulls NBA champion Horace Grant, heading into the draft. The Notre Dame product said his role had not yet been outlined, but he was open to starting.

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As training camp opens, Porzingis is learning from Melo

Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter

For close to a week, 7-foot-3 Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis played one-on-one with Carmelo porzingisAnthony, one of the most potent scorers in the NBA, and “KP” says he learned a little something new every day.

“Whoever you play against, you want to beat him and prove that you can play,” Porzingis said Monday at Knicks’ media day in Tarrytown. “It was fun just to learn from him and I realized how hard it is to guard him, low-post, high-post. Melo is the best player in those areas so it was a great experience for me just to learn from him.”

So who won most of the games to 5?

“Melo is Melo,” Porzingis said. “He beat me more than I beat him.”

Porzingis was the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft, and it remains unclear how much the Knicks can expect from him right away as they attempt to rebound from last season’s 17-65 disaster. But Anthony has taken the Latvian big man under his wing, and Porzingis hopes they can eventually win an NBA title together.

“This is my dream to play for the Knicks, so this is dream come true,” Porzingis said. “There’s no better place to win so hopefully some day we can win a championship here and have a big celebration.”

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