PHILADELPHIA — It may not be the glamorous life that Miles McBride anticipated when he was drafted by the Knicks, but this is what his life is like right now.
The Knicks rookie was assigned to Westchester of the G League Tuesday afternoon. So after spending the morning practicing with the Knicks, he headed to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to play a team-high 39 minutes and 46 seconds, leading Westchester to victory with 29 points and seven assists. It was then into a car that drove him to Philadelphia so he could be with the Knicks as they went through the morning shootaround preparing for Wednesday night’s meeting with the 76ers.
The time on the floor in the G League is mostly all of his game experience right now as he waits — perhaps more patiently than the Knicks’ fan base — for his chance.
"It’s definitely been challenging," McBride said. "Obviously growing up, never had to deal with sitting a lot. But it’s the NBA. It should be challenging. The task they’re giving me, being able to play in the G League and being able to come back to the team, it’s been fun. So just trying to enjoy every day and taking the challenge head-on."
McBride, who was grabbed with the 36th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft after starring at West Virginia, has appeared in 22 games for the Knicks. There have been high points — a 15-point, nine-assist, four-steal effort in Houston on Dec. 16 that seemed to signal he’d arrived. And there have been lows — testing positive for COVID-19 before the next game and having to sit out the next five games, then getting a pair of starts. The second one, in Toronto, was a struggle that knocked him out of the starting unit for the second half and was the last time he played at least three minutes in a game.
"I think it was also guys were coming back at the same time and coach just trusting the veterans," McBride said. "So no problem with it. I’m going to take every day and try to learn from it . . . Even if they were here I’m still looking for any opportunity I can get to play. I’m just going to continue to put in work and trust it."
He said he ignores the calls from the fans for him to get in the lineup, especially with the season turning sour for the Knicks, and he has been able to shut out the social media cries and the Garden chants.
"Not too much. I try to stay off," he said of the social media chatter. "When I play well, fans are going to get behind you. When I’m not playing well, it’s going to be the other way around. So just trying to keep my head straight."
The opportunities came when injury and illness stripped the Knicks' roster. And it’s that way again with Derrick Rose still sidelined and Kemba Walker sitting out the remainder of the season to heal his left knee. But since the NBA trade deadline passed without a move and with the Knicks spiraling toward the Draft Lottery, he is the one rookie who still waits for his chances.
Entering Wednesday night’s game, in the six games since the deadline he has gotten into only one game, playing 2:08 against Miami last Friday. Quentin Grimes stepped into the starting lineup before injuring his knee in the Miami game and Jericho Sims is now getting more minutes to showcase his skills with Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson sitting out.
"The feedback is you’re young, you’re a rookie," McBride said. "The opportunities you get, take them. And some things happen along with it."
For McBride that means using his time in the G League to show off his offensive skills — he hit 5 of 7 from beyond the arc Tuesday — and continue to hone the defensive skills that have been his calling card throughout his college career and rookie season. He believes that even if it hasn’t translated into minutes, he has learned and gotten better.
"Absolutely," McBride said. "I think just being able to get more reps in with the coaches and talk to them, watching film. I think it just elevated my game even higher. I think really just ball-screening and game management, honestly [have been the biggest improvement]. Not running as many ball screens in college and coming here, obviously, the whole game is ball screens. So just learning that and honestly, just defensive terminology and things like that is really what I’m focused on."