To My New York Family

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Dear New York,

It’s crazy how much can change in one year.

When I came here to the Knicks, I knew I’d have the opportunity to lead and have a voice in helping these guys become a better team. So when I got to NYC that summer, in 2022, that was my goal first and foremost — how can we lead this team to win? Across my entire basketball career, going back to middle school and high school, I’ve held a countless number of roles on teams. Role player. Captain. You name it. I’ve been almost every single guy on the roster. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to lead, and where I’ve been led. So coming here, I understood what I needed to do.

Anyone who knows me can tell you, I’ve never been the kind of guy who enjoys being in the spotlight. I like to keep things simple. I live a regular lifestyle as best I can. I think what’s been most important in everything, is keeping the people I love close to me, having my family keeping me humble and in the right frame of mind. They keep me grounded and keep me straight on the mental side, and I’m really thankful for it. I honestly couldn’t do it without them.

That’s been the major theme since I got here … family. When it comes to what it means to me to be a part of this Knicks era, it all starts there.

Actually, I’ll go back even further. It started in Chicago, in 2010, when my dad became an assistant coach for the Bulls. That’s when I first really understood the type of man and the kind of coach Thibs was. I knew, as a high schooler, that he was a coach who really wanted to win and did whatever it took to do that. And he knew none of that happened without sacrifices — from him, from the players, from everyone down the roster. That showed me the standard early on. 

That’s when I started to give this game everything I had, because I was lucky to grow up around the league and see how pro hoopers trained. I was never the biggest freak athlete, so I became a hustle player. I was always gonna fight for the loose ball and take charges, do whatever it takes to get it done. I still remember grinding in the gym late at night after games where I played terribly. Early in the morning, I’d be in there by myself getting in my work — getting my lifts in and working on my shot — all before the first bell. And I was lucky to have the friend group I did, that understood my goals and understood what I was trying to achieve. They never pushed me in a direction like, “Yo, just come hang with us and then do work after.” They were like, “No, no, make sure you get your stuff done and then come see us.” They pushed me in the right direction. And that made life a lot easier for me as a kid.

But the real difference maker is what I learned back then about how that kind of preparation feeds your mindset. Self-doubt is just a natural part of life, especially as a young player. If I’m being honest, I still go through that now. Even when you’re working as hard as you think you can, you’re going to have a little sliver of doubt. But it’s all about your concentration, your preparation and making sure that you’re putting yourself in a position to know that you did everything you could. That’s how you erase that sense of doubt. Some of that came from my dad, some of that was seeing how Thibs operated in Chicago. Playing for a coach now that has seen me grow over the years has been a great and unique experience. I think that’s what’s really at the heart of it all when it comes to that relationship. We’ve both seen where we’ve come from. 

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Once I got to New York, I understood it even more. It’s been special to be able to play for my dad, and Thibs, for Leon, and this organization. It’s really a dream come true. That’s all I can say. It’s not something that you really think about on a daily basis, right? It’s not in my head when I’m out there on the court. But sometimes when I’m really sitting back and chilling on my own, the magnitude really hits me…. How much it all means, not just to be doing this, but to be doing this with family. It’s easy playing with guys on the court who you’ve known for a decade plus, you know what I mean? When you’ve been playing alongside people as long as I’ve been playing next to Josh and Donte, you just understand them in a whole different way. I know how they like to play. It’s a different vibe. I don’t let myself stop and think about it often, but it does mean a lot to me.

After we made the trade for OG, things started clicking right away. He came to this team and was a force from the jump. The things he’s been able to do and the ways he’s been able to help us on both sides of the ball have been nothing short of spectacular. There aren’t that many players like that, who can just come to a new team and instantly impact the game, without knowing a lot about the system schematically, offensively or defensively. And he just did it right away. He’s such an amazing player with a great approach to the game. Precious has been a bully, too. He’s been a weapon for us, stepping up at key moments, which has been really cool to see.

Coming off that trade, things were great in January. Then OG and Julius got hurt. And Mitchell, too. But when those two went down, we didn’t really have a timetable for them. We were just going out there every single night playing as hard as we could. The most important thing, to us, was that we were staying afloat, we were winning and we were still pointing ourselves in the direction where we were going to be successful. We defined ourselves in those moments of uncertainty. It highlights something key to our game: We know who we are. It’s in the toughest moments that you learn that. 

And we’re not letting up. We’re taking that culture, the grit we know we have, that hunger and desire to win, to the playoffs. We’re doing it our way. We have a great opportunity in front of us. One thing about last year that has stuck with me, is this moment in Game 6 in Miami, when I turned the ball over at a crucial possession of the game. Even with all the positives of last season, it’s the moments like that that you remember forever, because you had the opportunity, and you let it slip away. I can still picture it in my mind. So as we lock in, one thing I’m focused on is attention to detail. That’s the message in our locker room. Having the mindset that every little thing matters. I know it seems like something very cliché to say, but when you’re in the playoffs, one possession, a mental error, the tiniest mistake, can cost you.

Listen man, playoffs in the Garden? It’s gonna be surreal. We know you guys are gonna be rockin’ at another level. But the most important thing we have to do is just literally focus on taking it one day at a time. And that’s a message we’re all trying to convey to each other, from the top down — coaches to the players, to everyone. We want to make sure that that’s our whole team’s mindset. We can’t deviate from the path. We all have to be on the same team, we all have to have the same mindset to continue to move forward together.

To the fans: You make a difference for us. I just want to make that abundantly clear. Without you, the Knicks aren’t the Knicks. The unconditional love and support has been phenomenal. It’s an honor to play for New York and play in front of this organization, the city and the fan base. I do not take it for granted one bit.

See you on Saturday.