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Knicks want to bring toughness back to Garden

Marcus Morris feels that what Knicks lack in

Marcus Morris feels that what Knicks lack in starpower they will make up for in toughness. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks have been careful not to overstate the potential for this year’s team, refusing to predict a playoff spot or even contending for one. If winning still seems elusive, there is a way to at least find a place in the hearts of long-suffering Knicks fans — by playing hard.

Marcus Morris repeatedly raised that notion in this first week of training camp.  He said the team is hoping to model itself after the old Knicks teams when Charles Oakley, Patrick Ewing and Anthony Mason enforced a no-layups rule, and on the perimeter Derek Harper and John Starks punished guards with hand-checking and sometimes worse.

Teammate Bobby Portis saw a social media post in which Morris’ made that claim and retweeted it with a bull's-eye emoji. Putting aside the notion that the old Knicks would not have bothered with emojis to get their point across, it did solidify the message the veterans on this team are trying to send.

The Knicks don’t have the shooting or speed to play the style of the NBA’s best run-and-gun teams. So rather than try to match up, they stocked the roster with size and an old-school mentality.

“Yeah. You’re going to see a lot of that,” Morris said. “Every time I’m on the court, it’s bully-ball. I’m going to use that to my advantage. Guys like Bobby Portis, you know that Julius Randle’s a bulldog, Taj Gibson, Allonzo [Trier], [RJ Barrett], we got a lot of guys, man, to keep throwing at people. I think it’s going to be a very, very fun year and it’s going to be surprising.”

“I’m backing that,” Portis said. “It’s going to be fun for us. Just to have guys that play with an edge, play with a chip on their shoulder, I think that’s always good. I think we really embody what New York basketball is about, blue-collar guys that go out there and play with spirit. It’s going to be really, really fun. I can’t wait to get started.”

It starts Monday for the Knicks when they move from bullying each other on the practice court to the first preseason game in Washington. The Knicks have few holdovers from last year’s 17-65 squad, but added little in star power to excite the fan base. However, Morris said on media day Monday that, “This won’t be like last year.”

“Obviously we can say it but you have to back it up as well,” Portis said. “I think it’s going to be really fun. You’ve got guys that really play with an edge. I think whether shots are going in or not, I think all of us still play hard. We’ve got guys like me, Taj, Julius and Marcus who play with an edge, a chip . . . It’s going to be fun, like I said. I can’t wait to get started. I’ve been itching and anxious since July when everybody signed. It’s going to be fun. I think fans are in for a treat.”

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