The day after the NBA Draft has become somewhat what like the opening day of the fishing season – a frenzy of, well, fish stories.
Sports talk radio sounds something like a cross between a live auction and a Sunday morning sermon. Newspapers devote columns and analysis that could take days to sort through. Grades are handed out like sidewalk flyers. The word ‘steal’ is used more than at the Manhattan Criminal Court Building.
There’s no way of truly knowing how any player will pan out. But there are principals that have stood the test of time.
Consider the buzz in Sacramento after the Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox, Henry Giles, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III.
“Pretty obvious what their priority is,’’ said one Eastern Conference scout. “They went after high-caliber kids that can play. You saw them do the same thing in free agency. Usually, you don’t go wrong with that approach.’’
In free agency, the Kings signed Vince Carter, the poster child for high-caliber NBA talent, Zach Randolph, who made himself into a consummate pro, and most notably George Hill, a serious-minded floor general.
The message was clear: The Kings, once known more for DeMarcus Cousins’ technical fouls and verbal outbursts than winning, were taking a new approach: Hopefully, building a winning team with high character, albeit, talented players.
Perry was asked at his introductory press conference if character would be the deciding factor when it came time for the Knicks to draft and/or sign free agents.
“I think that’s definitely an important quality when you’re talking about building a sustainable franchise that can be successful in winning, character plays a big part of it,’’ Perry said. “Obviously there are other attributes as far as basketball skill, and length and other things that are going to be important to us here.
“But in addressing those four individuals, just to give you a little insight into what we thought about them, they all came from great winning programs and understood sacrifice and what it took to win and that will be important to us as we move forward. And I think if you look at any winning franchise in the history of this game, that is pretty much a recurring theme in terms of the type of players you try to get.’’
Even though he was not the GM when the Knicks drafted point guard Frank Ntilikina or signed free agent Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, they are exactly the type of high-character talents Perry favors.
“He’s a guy that fits in everything that we’re talking about right now, today,’’ Perry said of Ntilikina. “He’s a smart basketball player. Obviously defensively, he focuses defensively and his approach to the game, his work ethic, fit exactly in the direction that we want to take this team.’’
Hardaway Jr., who the Knicks took with the 24th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft before trading him to the Atlanta Hawks in 2015, was one of coach John Beilein’s key recruits in helping to restore Michigan basketball to prominence.
Beilein has one of the most impressive track records in college basketball history of recruiting high-character players and melding them into remarkably successful teams. Hardaway Jr. was exactly Beilein’s kind of player, but more talented than the athletes he was able to land in his first coaching jobs at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia.
“Tim’s got it,’’ Beilein once said. “He’s grown up with great focus, (knowing) what it takes to achieve. Tim likes to work hard so that he can achieve success and not be given success.”
At his introductory press conference, Hardaway Jr. said he returned to the Knicks a more mature person and player. He talked about his improved eating and sleeping habits and commitment to the game. High character.
Perry’s lean toward high-character players comes from his upbringing. He stressed that his mother and father, “taught me love, they taught me confidence, they taught me the importance of treating people the way you want to be treated.’’
It’s with that approach that Perry intends to move forward building a winning franchise with players that understand personal sacrifice for team success. As he said, history has proven that building with high character players is a winning formula.
It might not happen overnight, which can make for some tough days in a city that hasn’t seen an NBA championship since 1973. Perry believes he possesses the character necessary to make it here.
“The best way I’m going to do that is I’m going to be Scott Perry,’’ Perry said. “I’m going to be who I am and what got me here, and that’s a person who’s very up front, straight forward, a hard worker, and I’m going to be available as much as I can be available.
“I want to make sure that I see myself as a bridge-builder, not a bridge-destroyer.’’