GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks had the day off Tuesday, but didn’t exactly get a peaceful respite, instead hearing Kevin Durant explain why free agents — like himself — passed on the chance to join the franchise this summer. Back in the gym Wednesday the Knicks answered back.
In a radio interview on Hot 97, Durant explained, “I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players who, in their lifetime, don’t remember the Knicks being good. I didn’t grow up with the Knicks. I’ve seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn’t see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks to them is not as cool as, let’s say, the Golden State Warriors or even the Lakers or the Nets now. It’s like the cool thing right now is not the Knicks.”
Durant did not even grant the Knicks a meeting during free agency, opting to head across town to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving. The Knicks shifted plans, signing seven free agents to rebuild the roster, but without the star power that had been expected when they cleared $70 million in cap space.
Julius Randle was the first to sign with the Knicks and the only one of the free agents to get more than one guaranteed year at Madison Square Garden, signing a three-year, $63 million deal.
“I feel cool in blue and orange,” Randle said. “I don’t know about everybody else, but I feel pretty cool wearing my Knicks gear every day. It’s a dream come true for me. Everybody has their own opinion, and I know [Kevin Durant], I don’t think he meant it as a slight, honestly. I feel cool every day walking into this practice facility, and I know for sure I’m gonna feel cool walking into that Garden Friday night knowing that’s my home court.
“I know [Knicks history] just because I love basketball. I wasn’t old enough to see the Knicks when they were really good, guys like Pat [Ewing]. I don’t think he said it as a slight. I understand it to a certain point, but us as NBA players, it’s our job to know our history and the people that came before us. You walk into Madison Square Garden as an opposing player, the energy is different from any other arena you’re gonna walk into. Whether you know the history or not, you know it’s a big thing when you walk and play in that Garden.”
Taj Gibson opted to sign with the Knicks rather than joining a contender, in no small part to his own New York roots, growing up in Brooklyn and watching the Knicks.
"Even when I was in Chicago every time we came back here we always talked about how special it is to play in the Garden, how special it is to play the Knicks,” he said. “Even when [Carmelo Anthony] and J.R. [Smith] and guys were here we always watched Knicks games. I always watch the Knicks, so in my opinion I always liked the Knicks. That's just my opinion."
“All I know is every day somebody outside our organization is talking about us, and I’m flattered,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “That’s an opinion. I like the guys that wanted to be here. We got seven guys that really wanted to be a part of the Knicks and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Notes & quotes: A league source said Marcus Morris would not receive a suspension for his Flagrant 2 in Monday’s preseason game against the Wizards . . . Kevin Knox (strained right calf), Wayne Ellington (illness) and Amir Hilton (strained left groin) did not practice. Bobby Portis (contused left rib) and Dennis Smith Jr. (strained lower back) did limited contact work.