The New York Knicks played their 41st and final home game of the 2015-16 season on Sunday night. For those Knicks who are pending free agents, they will head into the offseason not knowing if they will play in another game at Madison Square Garden in a New York uniform.
I caught up with a few of those players facing important decisions following Sunday night’s loss to see how they felt on the verge of free agency, and if they felt confident they would return to the Knicks next season.
Knicks president Phil Jackson received plenty of criticism when he signed Derrick Williams to a two-year, $9 million contract last summer. The general belief was that Jackson had overpaid for the former No. 2 overall pick, who had generally disappointed over his first few NBA seasons.
However, Williams exceeded expectations for the most part this season, playing arguably the best all-around basketball of his career. He provided an energetic spark off the bench and brought needed athleticism to the Knicks. Williams averaged 9.2 points (on 44.4 percent shooting) and 3.7 rebounds per game. In fact, he is the first player in Knicks franchise history to average more than nine points in fewer than 18 minutes per game. Williams also posted a career high 17.1 PER.
Williams admitted that getting comfortable in New York was an adjustment process.
“The city doesn’t sleep, man. You really have to get used to it. All of a sudden it can be 2:00 in the morning, real quick,” Williams said with a smile.
But, as noted above, Williams found his niche with the Knicks and stated he thoroughly enjoyed his maiden season in NYC.
“It was a lot of fun,” Williams said. “The energy of the crowd and the atmosphere is definitely amazing.”
Last July, Williams signed a two-year pact with a player option for the 2016-17 season. Williams made $4.4 million this season. If he does not opt out by exercising his player option, he will be paid $4.6 million next season.
When asked if he was leaning toward opting in or out of his final year with New York, Williams responded: “I haven’t really thought about it. I love playing here. It’s amazing. It might not have ended the way we wanted it to, but you can tell that city is starving for victories and a winning team. I love it here.”
I really don’t want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ There is always the option of, even if I opt out, to come back and re-sign. There [are] plenty of different options and I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
A few lockers down, pending free agent center Kevin Seraphin also discussed his future.
“We will see what’s going on, because it still is a business,” Seraphin said. “I don’t like to address that stuff too much because we never know what’s going to happen.”
If you follow Seraphin on any of his social media platforms, it’s quite apparent the jovial big man has enjoyed his time in New York. He said he would like to come back to the Big Apple in part because he has built such a strong bond with his teammates.
“It took me time to click with everyone, but by the end I think they ended up really liking me,” said a smirking Seraphin. Looking for validation, he turned to his right and asked shooting guard Sasha Vujacic, “Sasha, do you like me?” Vujacic hugged Seraphin and, in his best French accent, proclaimed: “I love you, baby.” Seraphin smiled and said, “See!”
Langston Galloway is another Knick with an uncertain future. Galloway was one of the very few bright spots during the Knicks’ dismal 17-win 2014-15 campaign. He was an undrafted D-League call-up who fought and scrapped and proved he belonged in the NBA.
“It’s been a great experience being here,” Galloway said. “I’m definitely excited to see what happens the rest of the summer. I think I’ve showcased what I can do, and I think the Knicks have seen what I can do. I’m just going to try and improve my game.”
Galloway has played 1,998 minutes this season, which means he needs to play just two minutes in the Knicks finale on Tuesday in Indianapolis to reach 2,000-minute threshold. This means Galloway will meet the collective bargaining agreement’s “starter criteria” for a player in the season preceding the end of a contract. As a result, Galloway’s qualifying offer will jump from $1.2 million to $2.7 million.
Following what could have been his final game as a Knick at Madison Square Garden, Galloway made it clear his preference is to return to New York.
“I definitely want to come back,” Galloway said. “I’m just hoping they want me to come back. Hopefully I’ll be back and see you guys next year.”
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