WEST POINT, N.Y. - Knicks legend Willis Reed has been a fixture during training camp, and he likes what he sees from the group former teammate Phil Jackson has assembled. He has been particularly impressed with 7-3 rookie Kristaps Porzingis.
Reed said Porzingis has to get stronger but that he has a chance to be good, and he believes he will start for the Knicks this season.
"He's got skills," Reed said Friday while the Knicks practiced inside Christl Arena on the campus of the United States Military Academy. "Most guys [his size] are clumsy, unskillful -- he's real well-coordinated.
"He's got to get stronger, learn the game, but he's got very good skills. Now it's a matter of him learning how to play our game. I think he can do something that most guys his size don't do well, and that's shoot the ball."
Reed, who has remained close with Knicks president Jackson, also attended last year's camp. He has noticed an immediate difference -- this team has better chemistry.
Reed said the players are working hard as they try to earn spots. He said other than Carmelo Anthony, no one is guaranteed to start, and that has led to some healthy competition.
"I really believe that we're going to have a great improvement in our performance this year on the court," Reed said. "I just think the chemistry is better, and that's always a positive. I see Melo, he looks thin. It looks like he's a youngster again. Everybody seems to be working hard.
"There's some young players out there that understand there's an opportunity here. Nobody's going to take Melo's spot. But after that, everybody is saying, 'Wait a minute: Who's playing all these other positions?' So you're going to get a lot of competition and you've got guys hustling and playing well. I think Rook [Porzingis] probably figures he's going to be a starter. I figure he's going to be a starter, too. But after that, you don't know."
Only four players from the current team were in training camp last year: Anthony, Jose Calderon, Cleanthony Early and Langston Galloway. Jackson overhauled the roster, signing six new free agents -- Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, Kyle O'Quinn, Kevin Seraphin and Sasha Vujacic -- after taking Porzingis and guard Jerian Grant in the draft.
"There's an opportunity for guys to come here and play and make a contribution," Reed said. "You've got to have at least 10 good players. They'll have that.
"They've got some rookies, they've got potential. Grant, I think, is going to be a good player. [Porzingis], I think, is going to be a good player. He's very athletic, very talented. He's got to learn what the NBA game is about."
Porzingis sits again
Porzingis didn't practice Friday morning because of left knee soreness that had kept him out of the contact part of Thursday's session. He said he didn't feel any pain and that the Knicks held him out for precautionary reasons. Afflalo also sat out because of a sore left hamstring.
Porzingis suffered the injury in a noncontact drill Wednesday when he made a "wrong movement'' and felt "a little pinch' in the knee. He expects to practice Saturday.
"They don't want me to jump in too early," Porzingis said. "They tell me it's a long season. Me as a player, I want to be back as soon as possible. I don't have any pain in my knee anymore. They did all the tests before practice and everything is fine."