NEW YORK -- Of all the prospects in this year's NBA Draft, it's possible that nobody has a greater appreciation for Madison Square Garden and New York City than Villanova wing and potential Knicks target Mikal Bridges.
After all, Bridges has already enjoyed a lot of success at the Garden and in the Big Apple.
The 6-foot-7 wing scored 25 points to help lead eventual NCAA champion Villanova to the Big East Tournament championship over Providence in March -- a game that Knicks owner Jim Dolan, President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry all watched from their courtside seats.
"Madison Square Garden, it's an unbelievable place," Bridges said Wednesday on the eve of the Draft. "The crowd, the people there, it's really cool. The lights. Maybe just knowing what happened at Madison Square Garden, the concerts, the people who played on that court, that's just another thing in the back of your head. You want to perform well here. Seeing [Michael] Jordan go off for like 60, seeing LeBron [James] go off when he was in Miami, seeing Steph [Curry] go crazy that one game...Maybe you want to do the same thing, and have a good game here.I've been blessed to able to do that. That place is really incredible."
Bridges, who worked out for the Knicks earlier this month, also has a deep appreciation for New York City that he said comes from Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who coached at Hofstra.
"Other than Philly and PA where I've lived my whole life, this is another spot where I've been here," he said. "Coach loves New York and I learned so much from him about New York. He tells us all the time about the boroughs in New York, where he coached and where he has family and friends and all that stuff, so it's really cool. I just know a lot about New York because of coach."
Bridges is currently projected to go at No. 10 to the 76ers, per ESPN.com. His mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is the global vice president for human resources for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the company that oversees Sixers personnel.
"Bridges is an easy player to slot on almost any NBA roster, thanks to his multipositional defensive versatility, 3-point shooting and role-player potential," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote. "He isn't as gifted a shot creator as you'd like from a top-10 pick, but on this roster, he won't need to be."
Still, if Bridges is still available at 9, the Knicks could have a perfect match.
"The organization is great," he said. "Coach [David] Fizdale is really good coach, a really good guy. He's about winning That's what I'm about."
Bridges said after his workout he would fit "really well" with the Knicks.
"You've got length with [Kristaps] Porzingis and Frank [Ntilikina]," he said. "They've got defense right there, just length on the ball, all that, and then playing off Porzingis. I could move without the ball, do whatever it takes. Transition, create space for him when he has the ball in iso. If they don't help off me, he has an easy way to the basket for sure."
Bridges says he's watched a lot of Porzingis over the last few years.
"I have for sure," he said. "I remember the first day he came as a Knick and people were doubting him, how hard he worked and how talented he is."
Bridges averaged 17.7 points and 5.9 rebounds on 51 percent shooting and 44 percent from deep, where he made 104 threes. He was a huge reason why Villanova won its second NCAA title in three years under coach Jay Wright. That team produced four players who could go in the first or early-second rounds in Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman.
"We're like Kentucky out here, man," he joked. "We got four draft picks coming out in the first round."
Unlike one-and-done prospects like Oklahoma's Trae Young, who also worked out for the Knicks, Collin Sexton, and Wendell Carter Jr., Bridges spent three years at Villanova -- something he believes makes him more NBA-ready.
"Yeah most definitely," he said. "That winning mentality. That's the one thing I care about. I care about winning and bringing home the championship. I don't care about single accoladses or anything like that. People don't know what it takes to win a championship, you sacrifice a lot. And that's maybe not seeing family, friends for a while. Maybe not talking to them that much."
He added: "I was just grateful to play for coach Wright and Villanova. We won it twice. I've been in it for my whole career in college so I know what it takes, I know the sacrifices ive been through. That's all I worry about - trying to win a championship."