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Kyle O'Quinn ready to be big contributor for Knicks

Kyle O'Quinn #9 of the New York Knicks

Kyle O'Quinn #9 of the New York Knicks celebrates his basket in the first half of a preseason exhibition game against Paschoalotto Bauru at Madison Square Garden on October 7, 2015 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

BOSTON - Kyle O'Quinn speaks loudly and carries a little bit of a chip on his shoulder after the first three years of his career didn't go the way he hoped.

The Queens product is really excited about Year Four, though.

O'Quinn is back home, playing for the Knicks, and is expected to be their first big man off the bench when the regular season begins Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

He had a solid preseason, averaging 9.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks in five games. Derek Fisher has penciled in rookie Kristaps Porzingis as the starting power forward with Robin Lopez at center. That's fine with O'Quinn, who just wants to play.

"Me just being in the mix is probably the best thing for me," O'Quinn said. "Starting, first big off the bench, second sub off the bench -- it really doesn't matter as long as I'm in the mix. It's a team game. Whatever the team needs, I'm willing to do that even if it's sacrificing my time for another player."

O'Quinn spent his first three NBA seasons with Orlando and averaged 15 minutes per game. He also collected 50 DNP-CDs ("Did Not Play -- Coach's Decision"), including eight in the Magic's final 10 games last season.

The 6-10 O'Quinn said it made him work harder and become a better player.

"After you sit one game, you sit two," he said. "After you sit two, you sit four, then you sit eight. You can't be surprised. You get more down on yourself and you start doing other things like extra workouts and stuff to pick up your confidence. You're more disappointed.

"I felt like I wasn't doing enough because I wasn't getting the time. I knew my time would come."

His time came after the Knicks acquired him in a sign-and-trade. The Knicks gave Orlando cash and the right to swap 2019 second-round picks in exchange for O'Quinn, who inked a four-year, $16-million deal and was elated about coming home.

A physical defender, the rugged O'Quinn gives the Knicks some needed toughness. He's always communicating on the court and in the locker room. He also can knock down shots and passes well.

"Kyle has a presence, not just physically -- he's pretty imposing -- but his voice," Fisher said. "He commands and he captains people.

"He does have some leadership qualities that are good for us. He's a big body. He enjoys competing. It wasn't until the summer that I had the opportunity to focus on who is Kyle O'Quinn. After much conversation, he was a priority for us."

O'Quinn, a former Little League catcher, is a big Mets fan and is trying to get World Series tickets. His favorite player was Mike Piazza. He also grew up liking Larry Johnson and the Knicks and looks forward to calling the Garden home no matter what his role is.

"I sat on the bench so long," O'Quinn said, "I just want to be on the court."

Notes & quotes:After Thursday night's preseason finale, Fisher alluded to Lopez getting "healthier" as camp has progressed. The Knicks never disclosed any injury but said Friday that Lopez has had sore knees. He missed one preseason game and a practice for what the team called "recovery days." . . . The Knicks waived Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Darion Atkins, DaJuan Summers, Travis Trice II and Wesley Saunders. Many of them are expected to be on the Knicks' D-League team in Westchester. The roster stands at 14.


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