Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Leading Draft Prospects Are Bullish on the Knicks

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Leading Draft Prospects Are Bullish on the Knicks

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- The Knicks lost 65 games last season, making it their worst campaign ever -- by far.

There is only hope that it will get better, no guarantees. For all their championship credentials, team president Phil Jackson and coach Derek Fisher have been unimpressive in their new roles. The Knicks have become a punch line.

But that seemingly bleak picture doesn't bother the NBA's next batch of talent.

"That's a great environment, pretty much one of the powerhouses in the league even though they've been off the last couple of years," Duke big man Jahlil Okafor said of the Knicks. "But I would love to be in New York."

Today, the Knicks likely will draft someone at No. 4 whom they hope can team with Carmelo Anthony to turn their franchise around.

On Wednesday, that man was in a Times Square hotel ballroom for a pre-draft interview session with reporters.

It probably won't be Okafor. The 19-year-old is projected to go in the top two. It would take a stunning drop, or the Knicks trading up, for him to end up in New York. But he still lavished on the praise for the Knicks' two biggest names.

"Phil and Carmelo? Those are two legends," Okafor said. "Phil is a Hall of Famer, Carmelo is a future Hall of Famer. It's a dream come true [to play for the Knicks]."

Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell, 19, may get the chance to live that dream, as he's projected to be picked from third to fifth. The idea of playing at Madison Square Garden is attractive.

"Everyone knows about the Garden -- it's the mecca," Russell said. "A lot of greats have been through here, a lot of moments. Everybody's been through there that has made history. So to get the opportunity to play there every night would be a blessing."

Russell said he doesn't know much about the triangle offense. But he's confident he could learn, especially after a recent film session with Jackson.

"Phil is a genius," Russell said. …

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