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Count Charlie Ward Among Believers In Knicks and Kevin Knox

Knicks rookie Kevin Knox has many believers, including former Knicks point guard Charlie Ward.

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Kevin Knox has impressed a fair amount in and around the New York Knicks organization, and now, one of the favorite sons of a franchise has gone on record as endorsing the rising rookie.

It’s impossible to talk about the 1990s New York Knicks without mentioning Charlie Ward among Patrick Ewing, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks.

It turns out that Ward has a special connection with Knox—the former Heisman Trophy winner played college football at Florida State University alongside Knox’s father, Kevin Knox I.

Ward spent 11 years in the NBA, including nine full seasons as a member of the Knicks. He was drafted by the Knicks exactly one week after the franchise lost Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals to the Houston Rockets and joined a team that was expected to have a legitimate chance to win an NBA crown. It wouldn’t be until 1999 that Ward and the Knicks would have that opportunity again, but Tim Duncan, David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs had other ideas.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that Ward is one of the few former Knicks around that can speak with authority on what success in New York City looks and feels like. Ward spent many of his former days watching Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell navigate superstardom in the league’s toughest market, so if there’s anyone who knows what type of personality it takes to succeed in Gotham City, it might be him.

“I think he has the right mentality to be successful in New York,” Ward told the New York Post.

“He seems to have a mature approach and great understanding of where he is in his development. The kid is well-balanced, with an inner confidence and swagger to him while having a quiet demeanor — which you need, especially being in New York.”

What’s most interesting about Ward’s comments is that they are wholly consistent with the front office at Penn Plaza. Before drafting Knox, the Knicks were as enamored with his personality and quite humility as they were with his raw talents and abilities. Head coach David Fizdale couldn’t stop extolling the virtues of his rookie during the Las Vegas Summer League, and quietly, the belief within the Knicks organization is that Knox will have the ability to prove he’s a magnet that’ll ultimately help the team attract a star free agent in the Summer of 2019.

“New York is a tough place to play, but you have to have thick skin,” Ward told the New York Post.

“He’s willing to listen and be coached. His whole mentality and attitude is one that will help him become a superstar in the league at some point.”

Nobody would doubt the kind of mentality and fortitude it takes to succeed in the city where the lights shine brightest. Carmelo Anthony had it. Stephon Marbury, not so much.

Years from now, it’ll be interesting to see whether Knox was able to live up to the billing and the expectations he’s set for himself. His standout performances in Las Vegas opened the eyes of many, including a former Knicks great whose name will forever live among some of the most hallowed from the franchise’s immediate past era of glory.

Similar to last season, the Knicks will begin the 2018-19 campaign with little to no expectations of competing for anything more than the last playoff seed available in the Eastern Conference. The scenario becomes a bit more realistic with LeBron James’ departure to the Western Conference, but in the long run, everyone in the franchise knows that the team would be better off missing out on the postseason once again and adding another lottery pick to the core that’s being assembled. Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina have each done everything the organization has asked of them and are each heavier and stronger than they were when they were drafted.

The front office continues to be impressed with Damyean Dotson and Trey Burke and, for the first time in a long time, will enter a season without any drama. There are no questions about whether Jeff Hornacek is the right coach for the team, no confusion as to whether the team is better served by ‘going for it’ with Carmelo Anthony or building for the future with Porzingis and no curiosity as to why Phil Jackson doesn’t seem all that interested in proactively helping to street the ship in the right direction.

For the first time in a long, long time, the Knicks can simply focus on—as president Steve Mills said in a recent radio interview on ESPN—getting their house in order.

While Porzingis is on the shelf, all eyes will be on the Knicks, their young core and how David Fizdale is able to reach and maximize them. We’ll be watching Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson, for sure.

But make no mistake about it, everyone’s already seen the potential within Knox. That long list includes Charlie Ward.

According to the former Knicks point guard, the franchise appears to be headed in the right direction. Knox, according to him, is one of the reasons why.

Soon enough, we’ll find out if old Charlie Ward still knows exactly what it takes to succeed in New York City.

And soon enough, Knox will have the opportunity to prove himself as being just the latest example of things that Scott Perry has gotten right.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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