Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Knicks are three days into training camp, so it's probably too early to say anything definitive about the team's identity. But Marcus Morris knows exactly what he wants it to be.
"Old school Knicks. Protect the Garden. My biggest thing is no one's coming in there and disrespecting us," Morris said Thursday. "If anything, if you come in here you're going to get a hard-fought game. The better team going to win but we're not tolerating no disrespect and no one coming in here thinking it's going to be easy. That's the first and foremost."
Other Knicks have delivered similar messages in the past. But more often than not, they haven't followed through on them. This instance is probably different; it would be hard to find a player in the league who thinks Morris won't back his words up.
Management has cited toughness and competitive spirit as something that they targeted in free agency after they missed out on their top targets this summer. That's one reason they targeted forward Bobby Portis.
Toughness, of course, is an intangible that can't be measured by statistics (though flagrant fouls are probably a good starting point).
But any Knicks fan will tell you that it's something that's been largely missing from the Garden over the last 20 years.
The Knicks haven't been known as a tough team since the Pat Riley/Jeff Van Gundy days. But Morris believes this year's roster can re-establish that vibe.
"I think we got the guys -- matter of fact, I know we got the guys -- that's going to stand up and that's going to fight every night," he said.
Morris 'very surprised' by Pop's comments
Morris reneged on a two-Year, $20 million verbal agreement with the Spurs this summer to sign with the Knicks. His agreement with the Knicks was for one year and $15 million. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters earlier this week said that he thought the situation was handled unprofessionally.
San Antonio had traded forward Davis Bertans to Washington and re-worked an agreement with DeMarre Carroll to sign Morris to a two-year, $20 million deal.
Morris was asked on Thursday about Popovich's comments.
"I was very surprised but I have nothing but respect for Pop," Morris said. "I'm not going to sit up here and say anything. Obviously, they made a big move and on my side things weren't clear for me so I made a decision based on what I knew and for my family. I hope them nothing but the best going forward this season. I'm in New York now. I'm just ready to get started."
Did Morris feel badly about how the situation played out?
"I got a lot of roots down there, a lot of Kansas guys -- guys that went to Kansas. At the end of the day, yeah, because they made a move and they had a great young player and I feel bad that it had to happen that way," he said. "But at the end of the day I'm here to focus on the New York Knicks."
As mentioned above, the Knicks open the season in San Antonio. So Morris may get an unfriendly reception from Spurs fans. It's not something he's worried about.
"I'm from North Philly, man. You're talking about a crowd," Morris said. "You boo me, you boo me. Hey, I've been booed before. At the end of the day I have nothing but love for Pop and RC (Buford) and Brian Wright and them guys down there. I know them personally and I'm sad it had to happen that way but it's the NBA."
David Fizdale mentioned Morris as one of the Knicks' leaders this season. So what is Morris' leadership approach?
"My approach first is lead by example. You can't talk that s---t and can't walk it, that's how I feel," Morris said. "Lead by example. Continue to help the young guys, be a voice. I'm a respected guy in this league, I've put a lot of work in, I've been here for nine years. It's kind of easier for guys to be able to listen because I've been around and they can relate to me."
Small forward or power forward?
It's safe to say that Morris is a strong candidate to start at small forward for New York. But he doesn't expect to play small forward over another position in New York. "I just expect to be on the floor," he said. Morris has played both forward spots and shooting guard in the past and he said he'll likely be handling the ball in the Knicks' offense this season.
"Fiz know what I can do. It doesn't matter if he puts me at 3, 4 or 2, it's going to be the same thing. Get the same production. Wherever it's at, I think I'll be very effective," Morris said. "At the end of the day, I'm a smart basketball player, I know the game, watch a ton of film so it's not going to be hard to go from position to position. Nowadays it's positionless basketball. So wherever I'm at on the court, I really don't look at myself as a 4 or a 3. I think you guys will be surprised at how well I can handle the ball, how well I can shoot the three off the dribble and do multiple things with the ball in my hands."