C.J. Leslie appears to be keeper for Knicks
LAS VEGAS - Of all the undrafted players this year, C.J. Leslie might prove to be the most intriguing prospect. At least the Knicks hope that's the case.
Projected as an early second-round pick with the potential to slip into the late first round, the athletic 6-9 forward from N.C. State wound up falling out of the draft.
But Leslie wasn't unemployed for long. The Knicks were one of two teams he worked out for before a hip injury sidelined him, and he made enough of an impression that the Knicks called him during the second round to lay the groundwork for a deal in case he wasn't drafted.
Now he's here at the summer league in a Knicks uniform, not exactly smiling, but eager to move past the disappointment of draft night. This is not the way he expected to make his entrance into the NBA, but he knows he has no choice but embrace the situation.
"I'm not really sure what the case was," Leslie said when asked why he thinks he wasn't drafted. "I haven't gotten other people's opinion. I don't really care for other people's opinion."
Knicks coach Mike Woodson described Leslie as "a talented kid that has a long way to go, there's no doubt about that." So it's clear the Knicks aren't penciling him into their rotation right now.
Leslie averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a junior, but it's not known if he'll be physical enough to play power forward or has the outside shot to play small forward. But the Knicks are intrigued enough by his athleticism to think he might develop into a legitimate NBA player.
Iman Shumpert, the lone established Knick on the summer-league roster, said one reason he's here is to play with first-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. and Leslie. That he offered Leslie's name alongside Hardaway -- without mentioning anyone else -- is another sign that the Knicks think Leslie might be a keeper.
Leslie struggled from the field in his summer-league debut, shooting 2-for-9 and scoring seven points. He played 25:06, third-most on the team behind only Shumpert and Hardaway. And, surely no accident, most of his playing time was spent with them on the court, too.
Leslie said don't read too much into his struggles, saying he was out of sync having not played in a while because of the hip injury.
"It's just me getting used to the game, the way the game works," Leslie said. "Just getting back on the court and actually playing five-on-five. I really haven't been playing much pickup."
The key, of course, is how comfortable he looks on the court come training camp and beyond.
"That's the thing these young players have to face more than anything is how to compete," Woodson said. "And if you're around long enough, these NBA guys, they force you to compete. Or you'll be sitting there next to me trying to figure it out."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks play their second summer-league game at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday against Washington.