The New York Knicks clearly have their sights set on gunning for a championship trophy. Adding veteran after veteran this summer, they will boast one of the oldest rosters in all of the NBA this coming season.
But that doesn't mean the organization is turning their heads completely on player development.
Continuously preaching a commitment in embrace their NBA squad and D-League affiliate as one cohesive unit, both the Knicks and Erie BayHawks had staff on hand Saturday as they hosted a large group of basketball hopefuls at Baruch College in New York City.
Perhaps looking for a diamond in the rough (or two), open tryouts for the BayHawks were held during the day.
Newly named head coach Gene Cross and his staff put the group of over 60 participants to the test, setting up 5 on 5 competitions, running drills, and even working closely with the prospects to see if they could effectively run different plays from the playbook.
A friendly guy, laughing and joking around with family and friends of the participants, Coach Cross appeared stoic and serious when it came to looking for potential talent. His General Manager (and Knicks Assistant G.M.) Allan Houston joined him and the staff later in the morning. Even G.M. of the NBA squad, Glen Grunwald, stopped in to pick the brains of those from the minor league staff.
Clearly a newly minted and younger pact of hopefuls, players greeted Houston with hugs and smiles, reminiscing about still owning his Knickerbocker jersey and recalling his impressive play. Another one "thanked" Houston for bringing the likes of Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd to the Big Apple.
When it came down to it, though the majority of the participants had talent, many looked as though they had set out merely to test the waters. Did they have what it takes to compete? How do they stack up amongst everyone else?
When the large group was later broken down into a smaller team of about twenty players, only the few with more legitimate hopes at reaching the pros remained. Among those to make the cut were Mike Davis (out of Seton Hall), Kahlil McDonald (out of Western Kentucky), and Rashad Bishop (out of Cincinnati).
A 6'10, 250 pounder, Davis was perhaps amongst the minority in the tryout who actually had prior experience in the D-League. The big man played in seven contests for the Texas Legends last season.
One of the more monstrous figures in the entire gym, Davis used his strength and size to his advantage throughout the session. He shook the rim numerous times during competitions, slamming home a few powerful dunks.
The coaching staff had to be impressed with the instincts of McDonald, a combo guard who was looking for his scrimmage teammates all afternoon. Despite previously not playing with the bunch, McDonald worked efficiently to connect on some flashy no-look passes that helped other players pour in the points.
And then there was Bishop. Like McDonald, he too is looking for an opportunity closer to home after playing overseas last season. Bishop has already participated in workouts in front of NBA and D-League executives this offseason. He'd been grinding all summer, and yesterday was no different. The guard continued to prove his potential worth by playing smart defense and making an effort to move well without the ball at all times. A solid shooter, Bishop displays some of the intangibles necessary out of a guard in an NBA rotation.
When it comes to player development (especially as it relates to catering players to potentially contributing to the Knicks), finding the right players isn't always about finding the stars. These hopefuls have to be able to do more than drive to the basket or shoot from long-range. It's necessary they all be multi-faceted, strong at various skills.
Only a few seemed to truly understand this concept, as evidenced by the cut. But as players like Davis, McDonald, and Bishop (and others) certainly proved, there are talented kids out there still fighting for their chance to get noticed. The open tryout undoubtedly provides many of these hopefuls that very opportunity.
Stay tuned and be sure to continue reading RU for an exclusive interview with BayHawks GM (and Knicks Assistant GM) Allan Houston, tomorrow!