Cam Reddish #0 of the New York Knicks looks on...

Cam Reddish #0 of the New York Knicks looks on during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on November 4, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Credit: Getty Images

PHOENIX — It was late in the third quarter Friday night in San Francisco when Cam Reddish had to give up the chase. A sore groin was limiting him after a night of trying to run with Stephen Curry, a hard-earned and painful lesson in what has been a steep learning curve.

The slender fourth-year wing has steadily improved on the defensive end this season, earning minutes under Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. But there are limits, and Curry is a step too far right now.

“It was fun,” Reddish said. “It was competing against the greatest ever, to be honest. It was fun. Tough, too. He’s nonstop moving. That’s probably why my groin is hurting. But I enjoy the competition.”

And the lesson?

“Yeah, man, I would just say his conditioning is through the roof,” Reddish said. “To be able to run around like that and just shoot, and get to the rim and get fouled. I think if I can get my conditioning to a level like that over time — it won’t happen tomorrow — if I can get my conditioning to that, it will go a long way.”

Reddish was limited to 25 minutes, and his status for Sunday afternoon against the Suns is in question. It will depend on how the soreness progresses (he said he tore the groin in 2019 and that this is nothing like that).

But after averaging only 14.3 minutes per game in 15 appearances after joining the Knicks last season, he is up to 23.3 minutes per game in the first 16 games this season, including eight starts. In the first two games of this five-game road trip, he averaged 35 minutes per game.

The ability to score has never been in question for Reddish, a former lottery pick of the Atlanta Hawks after spending his one season at Duke with RJ Barrett. But to play for Thibodeau requires a commitment on the other end, and that has changed from just a physical talent into a more polished team defender.

“I think he’s starting to get into a better rhythm on both ends,” Thibodeau said. “He’s long. He’s athletic. And I think he’s taking a lot of pride in it. And so, when he plays with that type of energy — and I love to see the way he runs the floor . . . But his athleticism is a great asset. I like to take advantage of it.

“He’s a hard guy to pass around. Just his ball pressure can be very disruptive. So there’s more hang time on passes, so when you’re closing out to shooters, he’s a hard guy in pick-and-rolls to throw over. All those things matter. So when you add them up — and I think he’s starting to understand all the schemes and what his responsibility is. He’s seeing things. He can guard multiple positions. He can guard point guards, 2s, 3s, 4s. You can even switch him onto some 5s.”

Reddish will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, and his role and future in New York remain cloudy with Quentin Grimes regaining his conditioning. Thibodeau said he’s taking it day by day, but there is little question that Reddish has opened eyes.

“He’s just showing his versatility,” Julius Randle said. “He’s so talented. He can really score the ball, but he’s showing he’s two-way and he can lock up and defend, whether it’s guards or wings. So as long as he keeps doing that, his value is amazing to us.”


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