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Knicks great Bill Bradley delivers message to young squad

Bill Bradley attends the Madison Square Garden 2015

Bill Bradley attends the Madison Square Garden 2015 Walk of Fame Inductions on Monday, May 11, 2015, in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Evan Agostini

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — David Fizdale has a salesman’s touch, a skill that the Knicks hope will aid them in free agency next summer. But for now, the stars he has attracted are of another generation, and the latest one emerged Tuesday to make a rare appearance speaking to the team.

Bill Bradley, who is a Hall of Famer and a major part of the two Knicks championship squads, is renowned for his time before the NBA when he starred at Princeton and opted to study at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship rather than head straight to the league and then for his time after, when he became a senator and ran for president. It was all of those lessons that he tried to impart to the team.

“It was unbelievable. Selfishly I wanted him just because I’m a fan of his and I’m in awe of the man,” Fizdale said. “His commitment to service. I figured who better to teach our guys about being a Knick, about service, about community more than Bill Bradley. It was a really awesome 20-, 25-minute talk to the team. I think the guys heard him. I know for all of us that work here it was a real treat and his message was great.”

While the Knicks have made a habit of trotting old faces into the Garden for games and playing up the connection to history —- an appearance Bradley has made seated beside his old teammate and former Knicks president Phil Jackson — Fizdale has opened the door to practice.

He had Patrick Ewing speak to the team in preseason, thawing a long separation with the franchise, and already has had Walt Frazier, Chris Bosh and Rasheed Wallace visit. When the Knicks travel to New Orleans in two weeks there are efforts being made to have Willis Reed meet the team.

"That's the luxury of having a great coach like Fiz,” said rookie Kevin Knox, who participated in the non-contact portion of practice Tuesday, slowly progressing in his return from a sprained left ankle suffered in the third game of the season. “He gets along with so many people. He's a champion himself. So he knows so many people around the NBA, that he can bring a lot of people back. You see Rasheed's in here working the guys out. You see a lot of legends coming back to talk to us, Patrick Ewing came to talk to us. It’s great. I'm pretty sure we're going to have a lot more legends coming through. I'm young, to be able take that all in, it's great, and can go from there.”

While a former player like Wallace was barking instructions on the court in practice, Bradley met with the team in the film room and had a different message. Bradley was a key member of the 1970 and 1973 championship teams — the only championship teams in Knicks history — playing alongside Reed and Frazier, and now their numbers are all retired.

“For our guys it was three major points,” Fizdale said. “It was what it actually means to be a Knick, the tradition that comes with that; what you mean to your community and what the right to vote means, and what people did before them to make sure that they can get out and vote, and that the community watches them to see if they’re going to do that and they will follow them.

“And then he talked about being frugal with your money and saving it. He told them to take one quarter of their check every paycheck and put it away and he promises them if they don’t touch that money, they’ll never want for anything at the end of their life. So it was a great message for these guys. The guys were sitting on the edge of their seat listening. And I don’t know if it was because he was a Knick or there was a senator in the room that they were like, ‘Whoa, this is heavy.' I just thought it was great that he would take the time out to come up here and spend it with us.”

"It was great,” Knox said. “His name's up in the rafters. Every time you come across one of those people, you’ve got to listen. My eyes were locked in the whole time on him, making sure I was just locking in everything he was telling me and just taking it in. He's a great person. A senator, he worked in the military, a two-time champion, so he knows what he's talking about. I'm young, and I want to be where he is one day, so that's something I really look forward to.”

Notes & quotes: Knox will not play Wednesday against Indiana. He will travel with the team to Dallas and Washington but is unlikely to play.

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