Baker Reminding Knicks What He Brings to the Table

Ron Baker became not just Knicks fans favorite rookie, the shaggy-haired dogged guard who left everything on the court – including skin – became a teammate favorite.

Carmelo Anthony dubbed him Ron Burgundy, even if Baker didn’t have the bulging biceps of the legendary San Diego news anchor.

Hard work, not you Mr. Burgundy, gets noticed and Baker, a free agent signee, quickly caught the eye of coach Jeff Hornacek.

[Watch Knicks-Thunder Saturday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

Instead of a year in the D-League, Baker spent the majority of the season in The Garden, playing in 52 games and starting 13. The fans adopted the sandy-haired Kansas native who grew up in a town smaller than some New York brownstones.

[Robbins: Baker Brings Small Town Toughness to Big City]

Baker was rewarded with a two-year, $8.9 million deal and the prospects of competing for the team’s backup, if not starting, job.

But the Knicks used the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft on French point guard Frank Ntilikina and he has become this year’s rookie fan fave, a newbie not afraid to back down from LeBron James or take a clutch 3.

The Knicks brought in veterans Jarrett Jack and Ramon Sessions to tutor Ntilikina. The savvy Jack locked up the starting job. Ntilikina, who’s been playing his best ball of late, is the backup.

It’s a great scenario for the Knicks. Unless you’re Baker.

His second season in New York has been a stuttering one, shuttling back and forth between the Knicks and the Westchester G-League. He’s played in just 10 Knicks games.

But Baker got a chance to remind the Knicks what he brings to the table in Thursday night’s 111-104 win at the Brooklyn Nets. Baker scored five points, had two steals, two rebounds, two assists and left a lot of skin on the Barclays Center court in 18 minutes.

Ntilikina scored seven points, dished eight assists, grabbed five rebounds and made two steals. He was +14. Baker was +5.

For a franchise committed to getting younger, more athletic and more talented, consider this: Ntilikina, 19, and Baker, 24, were on the court for most of the fourth quarter.

Baker made both of his steals and blocked a Caris LeVert offensive rebound putback attempt with 1:36 left and the Knicks clinging to a 103-97 lead.

Ntilikina scored all seven of his points, including the 3 with 3:09 left that gave the Knicks that six-point lead. When the Nets called a timeout minutes later, Jack, with a huge smile on his face, wrapped an arm around Ntilikina’s head.

“He’s way more sure of himself and it’s showing in his play,” Jack told reporters. “His game is maturing and right around this time, Christmas, the top of the year that’s when [rookie] guys start to get a handle on the task ahead of them and he’s done a tremendous job.”

Baker knows he’ll have to make the most of any minutes he gets this season. He’s been down this road before. Baker redshirted his first year at Wichita State. In his second, he helped lead the Shockers to the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

Baker’s tenure marked the start of a Wichita State revival that allowed the program to jump from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference.

The Shockers, currently ranked 3rd in the nation, have been coal-oven Baked.

“Ron’s one of the most tenacious players I’ve coached,’’ Wichita State coach Greg Marshall told MSG Networks last season. “He’s that rare kid who will do anything it takes to win a game but always puts the team first.’’

Ntilikina is the rookie who is first in the heart of Knicks fans this season. But don’t count out Baker.

Frankly, I’d love to get him down to the Sam Brocato Salon in SOHO and let the amazing staff turn that sandy-blond shag into swag.

But then Ron ‘Burgundy’ Baker wouldn’t be who he is – a gritty, tenacious player from a small town in Kansas who has fought for everything he’s gotten.

[Watch Knicks-Thunder Saturday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]


Kristaps Porzingis, who left the Nets win in the third quarter with a sore left knee, is listed as day-to-day. The Knicks host Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night at The World’s Most Famous Arena. KP is questionable but he sounded optimistic post game.

“Hopefully it’s not too serious,” KP told reporters. “I’m standing and doing everything so it’s just them being cautious.’’

Newsday’s Neil Best is reporting that according to, the average asking price as of Friday morning for the Knicks-Thunder Melo Returns game was $590, the Knicks’ second most expensive ticket this season on the secondary market, behind only the Warriors’ visit in February, at $704.

The least expensive ticket for Saturday’s game as of Friday morning was $198. Hmmm. Who am I scratching off my Christmas list?