About a year and a half ago, I got to go to lunch with Phil Jackson. I was tagging along with my uncle, Horace. I just got to sit back and listen to them talk about the old Bulls days in Chicago. It was pretty cool, to say the least. It made me wish I had gotten to see Michael and Scottie play in person, but I was too young then. The guys I watched coming up were LeBron, Kobe, KD, Melo.
Which brings me to draft night in Brooklyn last month. Some players find out where they’re going on draft night from the commissioner announcing their selection at the podium. Some players find out where they’re going on draft night from a coach or GM calling them on the phone. And some players find out where they’re going on draft night from their agent whispering it in their ear.
I found out where I was going on draft night from a bunch of really hyped fans shouting my name and yelling, “Welcome to New York.”
The draft process is filled with uncertainty, but the ending to mine was about as cool as it can get. And it was the first sign that playing for the Knicks would be a little bit different than playing for any other team. There is just something about New York.
And even though my dad, Harvey Grant, and my uncle, Horace, both played in the league, I still don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. I get to play in the NBA, and in a place like New York, where the fans are so passionate about their basketball. Knowing how passionate I am about the game and how much I love playing it, I think playing it in front of such a great crowd will be a perfect fit. As a player, having fans that love their hoops as much as you do makes a difference.
A lot of people talk about the Triangle. It sounds mysterious, but I’ve watched game tape. I’ve studied up. I want to be able to master it some day, and actually, I think it’s a perfect fit with my style. Three of my biggest strengths are my passing ability, my size for a guard and my ability to space the floor, and every one of those strengths will lend well to running the Triangle. My uncle even played in the Triangle. Watching film of my uncle’s Bulls teams with Jordan and Pippen and the Kobe/Shaq Lakers, it really was mostly about spacing and movement. (Obviously it helps if you have some of the best players ever.)
At Notre Dame, we were known for our floor spacing. One through five, we could create space. Our offense was all about being able to read your teammates, and being able to do it while not having the ball in your hands the whole time. You swing it, you make a cut, you get open. That’s simplifying it a lot, but it’s a major component of what the Triangle is.
And then my biggest strength of all is probably my basketball IQ. In the Triangle, you need that. You’ve got to process a lot of different angles and aspects of what’s happening on the court. You make a pass to a certain spot, assess the flow of things and then anticipate the defense from there. Knowing which way to go, who to set a screen for, all of that — it’s really just about having a basketball IQ. I think I’m going to a style of offense where I can fit in, basically just by being myself. That’s an opportunity that not a lot of guys get.
Another rare opportunity I’m getting is to play point guard in the Triangle for a coach who played point guard in the Triangle — and maybe did it better than anyone. Coach Fisher coming from that background and having that experience will help me out a lot. Just having him in my ear and being able to talk to him will be huge. I watched him all the time on those Lakers teams growing up. He was the guy who was running the show, putting the other guys in position to succeed all game, making the whole thing work. It means a lot to me that he has already done what I’ll be asked to do — and has won championships doing it.
And of course, there’s Melo. Melo is The Man. He’s the type of scorer that, as a point guard, you dream of getting to play with. Melo texted me to say congratulations after the draft. Later, I met him in NYC. Obviously, he’s the leader of the team — and after meeting him, I can see why. I can’t wait to drive and kick to him. That’s an amazing target to have as a rookie in the league.
The NBA is a guards league now, and I know that in order to keep up with the elite guards there are some things I will have to improve. Defense, for one. I think in the Triangle, my offense will be fine, but just being able to defend some of these points guards that are out there — I know that will be a tough test for me, and I have to be prepared.
Just in the East alone, you’ve got Wall, Irving, Rose … the list goes on. Every night in the league, as a point guard, you could be going up against an All-Star caliber player. It’s the deepest position in the NBA, and probably the best. And to play it, you’ve got to be able to defend it. Defense is where, as a rookie, you can start to make a name for yourself. I’m excited for that challenge.
And I’m just excited to be on the Knicks in general. I was only the 19th pick, but the amount of media coverage made me realize how big of a market New York is and what an amazing basketball city it is. That can be good and be bad. But they care, a lot. And more than anything, they just want to make sure that you’re playing hard. As a hard worker, I respect that. My dad and uncle taught me from an early age about giving a full effort and staying humble. They instilled in me the idea that your mindset is just as important as your talent if you want to have a successful career in the NBA.
After the draft, we celebrated. I got to experience New York for the first time as someone who was about to live there. Now, it’s summer league, then off to the preseason, then to the official start of my rookie year. I’m going to work my tail off to make sure I’m ready — ready for the Triangle, ready for the Knicks and ready for the fans that welcomed me right from the start.
People say that in New York they love you when you’re winning. And that’s fine by me. In fact, I’m counting on it.