As a child growing up in New Jersey, Karl-Anthony Towns rooted for the Knicks.
And as a high school star, Kentucky one-and-done and NBA Rookie of the Year for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Towns was aware of the Knicks’ downturn since their 2013 appearance in the conference semifinals.
He thinks the Knicks’ offseason additions could reverse that trend.
“It would be big,” said Towns, who spent Tuesday morning coaching young hoopsters at Gold Coast Sports Academy’s camp at Michael J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park. “New Yorkers have a lot of pride. To be able to have a team that they’re very excited for, it raises the morale. That’s something that you need.
“That’s something that you want in your city, especially with a team that’s so historically gifted such as the New York Knicks.”
The Knicks (32-50 last season) traded for point guard Derrick Rose, who won the MVP award for Chicago in 2010-11. They signed his Bulls teammate and two-time all-star Joakim Noah, and added veteran guards Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings.
“They brought in a former MVP and a top-three vote-getter for MVP who were also teammates, so they did a lot of great things,” Towns said. “Courtney Lee is a great addition as well. They added some great pieces, and now it’s up to them to execute and make it all work.”
There’s one piece they did not pursue: Tom Thibodeau, who signed on to coach Towns and the Timberwolves after being coveted by many Knicks fans, if not Phil Jackson and the front office.
“He’s such a defensive-minded person, but he’s so intelligent on both sides of the basketball,” said Towns, last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year. “I think he gets overlooked sometimes for his offensive capabilities because his defensive prowess is so strong. He’s very smart, super intelligent and also has a great character that drives people and has the fire and desire to want to win.”
Towns voluntarily accompanied Thibodeau in Las Vegas for the NBA’s summer league earlier this month. He picked his coach’s brain and watched as the Timberwolves’ team reach the final, falling to Chicago and championship MVP Jerian Grant, the centerpiece of the Knicks’ trade for Rose.
“I wanted to understand a lot of people’s games a little better,” Towns said, “and it was different from playing on the court with them than watching them on the sidelines, seeing how they operate. Having an opportunity to do that was a lot of fun and it was an eye-opening experience, too.”
Towns raved about point guard Tyus Jones, the summer league MVP, for his work ethic and improvement. He also praised point guard Kris Dunn, saying the fifth overall pick in June’s draft looked like he could keep the Rookie of the Year award in Minnesota for the third straight year -- Andrew Wiggins won it in 2014-15.
The Timberwolves went 23-59 in 2015-16, but Towns is optimistic about the young core.
“We look good,” Towns said. “We look real good. We look powerful. Now it’s for us to execute as players and follow Coach Thibs’ game plan.”