They’ve both become Rangers fans.
In addition to the Knicks and Rangers sharing the same training facility, Kuz and Vujacic have taken in several Rangers games at The Garden. They have developed very strong views on the hockey: Eliminate offside. And neither Knick would play goalie.
“Definitely not goaltender,’’ Kuzminskas said. “I remember when I was a kid when we were playing soccer, we usually put into the goal the slowest guy or the guy which we don’t like. So definitely not goaltender.’’
Because of the team’s conflicting travel schedules, there isn’t a great deal of time for Knicks and Rangers players to develop close friendships. They pass each other in the teams’ training facility and in the cafeteria.
But there’s a sense of camaraderie that exists among professional athletes, especially those that understand the pressure and expectations that come with playing in the metropolitan area.
“I like to go support them,’’ Vujacic said. “We’re playing and practicing at the same facilities. They’re all great guys. It was fun to be around that atmosphere.’’
That atmosphere in The Garden was never more electric than it was on June 14, 1994, when the Rangers hoisted the Stanley Cup, ending a 54-year jinx. It prompted one Blueshirts fan to hold up a sign which read, ‘Now I can die in peace.’
“I’m really happy we have a good team in New York,’’ Kuz said. “New York is a city of big, big sports fans. This year we’re not doing as well as we would like to and I’m just happy that another team is doing great.’’
“I like actually how way they play, really fast, fast-paced,’’ Vujacic said. “It’s incredible. And they play as a team. You can feel that.’’
Hockey, especially watching it in person, sells itself.
The chill of the ice, the speed of the game, the sound of players being checked into the boards makes for a thrilling fan experience.
Kuzminskas and Vujacic have hockey fever.
“It’s fast,’’ Vujacic said. “It’s unpredictable.’’
“I like the speed of the game,’’ Kuz said. “When you’re watching live you can’t always follow the puck on TV.
“And all the contact and the speed and the aggressiveness. I’d like to bring some of these things to our team – the aggressiveness contact.’’
Vujacic said he would like to play wing because he likes the creative freedom and play-making.
And, scoring, of course.
Vujacic has been a terrific three-point shooter for his entire NBA career.
Kuzminskas, a rookie from Lithuania, has shown a promising offensive game. He’s averaging 5.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 14.5 minutes. As he continues to improve his defensive game and add some muscle to his 6-foot-9, 215-pound frame, Kuzminskas should see more minutes.
Kuzminskas and Vujacic said they’re focused on finishing the season strong. If they haven’t begun their offseason workout programs and the Rangers are home, they’d like to watch the Blueshirts in the playoffs.
“It’s fun because we see these guys every day,’’ Vujacic said. “They’re good guys and they’re trying to accomplish something, and they’re doing a good job.’’
MSGNetworks.com asked Kuzminskas and Vujacic if they would make any rules changes to make hockey even more exciting.
“I’m not a big fan of offside to be honest, because too many times it slows the game down,’’ Vujacic said.
“No offside would make it really fast,’’ Kuzminskas said. “I’ve heard the same thing about soccer. I think the people running hockey know more than I do about the sport so I will say it’s good the way it is.’’