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Willis Reed addresses young Knicks at practice; 'how cool is that?'

Coach David Fizdale said the former Knicks great talked about his early struggles before winning championships. 

Former New York Knick legends Willis Reed (L)

Former New York Knick legends Willis Reed (L) and Earl Monroe attend the Basketball Hall of Fame finalist press conference the NBA All Star practice at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Feb. 14, 2015 in New York City. Jim McIsaac Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Hang in there.

That was the message that one of the most legendary Knicks delivered to the team before practice Thursday.

Willis Reed, who has been texting with Knicks coach David Fizdale this season, attended Wednesday night’s 137-116 loss to the Jazz and addressed the 14-58 Knicks at the team’s practice facility.

“How cool is that?” Fizdale said about having Reed attend a practice. “He’s a guy who’s a great talker. He’s constantly sending me text messages and encouraging me. So we finally got him to hang out with the guys.”

Fizdale said Reed talked to the team about how rough his first three years as a Knick were. The team went 97-144 in three seasons beginning in 1964-65.

“He was like, my first three years were terrible,” Fizdale said. “He was great. He said I had three coaches. He said it wasn’t the coaches’ fault, which I like to hear. He said in this league you got to go through it, especially with a whole bunch of young guys. You got to go through it. But he said if you stay with it and you work hard, eventually you can get to the place we ultimately got to.”

Reed was the NBA Finals MVP on the only two Knicks teams ever to win an NBA championship, in 1970 and 1973. He was not made available to talk to reporters Thursday.

“He said a whole bunch of other good stuff,” Fizdale said. “It was coming from a legendary Knick who they all knew, which is great. I think it was good timing.’’

The Knicks originally tried to get Reed to talk to the team in November when they were in New Orleans, but that didn’t work out. Reed, 76, lives in rural Louisiana. Knicks center Mitchell Robinson grew up there and Reed has taken a special interest in him.

What did the two talk about Thursday?

“Everything. Leadership. Toughness. Team,” Fizdale said. “He was the epitome of all of those things. And that was a big part of his message [to the team], how to share the game so everyone makes sure they feel a part of it and involved. I think he can have a real impact and be a mentor.”

Robinson said it was great getting to pick Reed’s brain. “Coach told me a lot about him,” he said. “He was one of the best centers in the game. I went home and went on YouTube and saw some video and saw lot of things he did. He was a real scrappy guy.”

Notes & quotes: Wednesday was Robinson’s 29th game in a row with a block, which broke Patrick Ewing’s Knicks rookie record. Robinson’s 136 blocks broke Kristaps Porzingis’ Knicks rookie record of 134 . . .  Frank Ntilikina is questionable for Friday’s game against Denver.  Dennis Smith Jr. and Allonzo Trier are not expected to play. Noah Vonleh is questionable.

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