BEAVERTON, Ore. — Athletic greatness was all around the Knicks on Sunday. Ahead of Monday night’s game against the Trail Blazers, the 10-29 squad practiced at the sprawling, ostentatious Nike World Headquarters.
As they entered the swoosh-bedazzled campus, the Knicks’ buses passed a huge poster of Tiger Woods. They originally were supposed to practice at the Bo Jackson Fitness Center, which is near buildings named after Serena Williams and Sebastian Coe.
But the practice was moved at the last minute to the “Coach K Building” — aka the Mike Krzyzewski Fitness Center. The state-of-the-art practice palace features a statue of the Duke coach, crouching with hands outstretched — presumably calling out a play and not reaching for a huge bag of sneaker-company cash.
After the practice, coach David Fizdale was asked if he expects to have a building named after him someday. “It’ll be a small building,” he cracked.
The Knicks were in a good mood, and not just because one of the team buses post-practice was headed for the Nike team store for any player who wanted to enjoy a shopping spree.
No, the Knicks still were basking in the afterglow of their 119-112 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night. (A couple of free nights in L.A. probably didn’t hurt their moods either. The team didn’t fly to Portland until Sunday morning for a late-afternoon workout.)
That win came against a Los Angeles team that was without its (and Nike’s) star, LeBron James, who missed his fifth straight game because of a groin injury suffered on Christmas Day.
Fizdale was an assistant coach in Miami when James was there, so he knows The King well. Fizdale had hoped to facilitate a chat between James and rookie Kevin Knox, but the timing didn’t work out.
“I never pulled it off,” Fizdale said. “I was too busy hanging out with the guys in the locker room. Sometimes you get caught up in the moment of just feeling good with the guys. But hell, I’ve got LeBron’s number.”
In Knox, the Knicks have a 19-year-old star in the making. He showed his chops in his first game at Staples Center, scoring 14 points a day after being named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December.
So what could Knox get from a conversation with James?
“I think how I look at it is if he just gets even a little bit from it — you know, I’m not looking for this guy to show him, like, the oracle or this is the whole thing of how you get it done,” Fizdale said. “But if he can just give him a nugget that he can take with him and apply to what he does, then it’s all worth it. I’m just trying to expose these guys that way to as much knowledge as possible, at least from the people that I know or the people that’s in the Knicks' family.”
As far as speaking to others around the league, Knox said he keeps in touch with some of his many fellow Kentucky players. He would have liked to have sat down with James and hopes it will happen eventually. “He’s probably got a lot of stuff on his calendar,” Knox said. “So I didn’t want to bother him or nothing like that. I let him live his life.”
Notes & quotes: Frank Ntilikina shed the walking boot on his sprained left ankle, but he likely will miss Monday’s game in Portland and Tuesday's game at Golden State. Ntilikina was injured late in the first quarter on Friday . . . Fizdale said Mitchell Robinson’s return from a left ankle injury will have to wait until the team hosts the Pacers on Friday. Robinson has been out since Dec. 14.