Published On: Thu, Mar 1st, 2018

'I've got a new opportunity': Mudiay hoping to run away with Knicks' starting PG job

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. – As the New York Knicks practiced on Wednesday, Emmanuel Mudiay wore a white jersey with an orange T-shirt underneath. New York’s new starting point guard looked good during scrimmages, showing off some flashy passing skills.

As the practice broke up and media availability began, Mudiay seemed to disappear. He had not gone to the exit door, but as Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek was speaking, with some players still doing some extra work, there was nobody out there with orange sleeves.

“We see his ability to get to the basket,” Hornacek said of the player the Knicks picked up from the Nuggets at the trade deadline for Doug McDermott and a second-round pick. ‘I think he’s got another gear he can go to. We’ve seen bits and pieces of it. I think part of it is conditioning. I think he understands that, and you see him right now, he’s running extra sprints.”

Indeed he was. There were no orange sleeves because Mudiay was down to a black undershirt, and he kept on running until the last moment he could before hitting the showers and catching the team flight to the West Coast. Mudiay was out of breath and fighting a losing battle with a small towel against rivers of sweat as he explained why he was putting himself through this, 20 games from the end of the Knicks’ fifth straight non-playoff season.

“I’m working on my conditioning right now, trying to get back to where it was,” Mudiay said. “It’s going to take a little time, but every day, you just take it step by step.”

Mudiay was barely playing with the Denver Nuggets, having lost his starting job midway through last season and averaging only 17.9 minutes per game – when he played – this season. In six games with the Knicks, three as a starter, Mudiay has averaged 24.7 minutes.

The 30:32 that he played on Monday against Golden State was Mudiay’s most extensive action since December. It makes sense that, as he is the Knicks’ point guard going forward, Mudiay needs to build himself back up physically after more than just figuratively rotting away in Denver, where his career had begun so promisingly with a spot on the All-Rookie second team in 2015-16.

“I’ve been in the (starting) role before, my rookie year, but I think I’m wiser than my rookie year,” Mudiay said. “I’ve learned a lot, and it gives me a chance to become a leader. Just listening to Jarrett Jack, he’s a great leader, and he tells me kind of the ins and outs.”


(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

As Mudiay gets a second chance to grow into a leadership role, it would be easy to understand if there were discord given that the Knicks, just last summer, made Frank Ntilikina the No. 8 pick in the draft. Instead, there is harmony.

“We work hard, fighting for each other,” Ntilikina said. “We want everybody to grow. We’ve got good veterans that teach us a lot, and it’s good for our future.”

The best sign for the Knicks’ future may be the chemistry and positive attitude of a group that lost its best player, Kristaps Porzingis, to a torn ACL, and has won just seven games since Christmas. The rest of this season is about something different now. And in a break from teams’ current NBA mind set, that something is not draft position.

“I’m still adjusting, just getting used to the guys and used to the system,” Mudiay said. “All I can really control is trying to learn, and take it one day at a time, just try to get better every day. We’re young, energetic, and all growing together. It’s a spot where I’ve got a new opportunity, so I’m blessed with that.”

Getting out of Denver was indeed a blessing for Mudiay, who had been the No. 7 pick in the draft in 2015, then saw the Nuggets take Jamal Murray with the No. 7 pick the following year, and Murray wind up supplanting him.

While the Knicks want to use Mudiay and Ntilikina together, as Murray rose to prominence with the Nuggets, Mudiay fell out of favor. But he still only turns 22 on Monday, and in an alternate universe, could be a senior in college right now, getting ready for the NCAA Tournament. That can be easy to forget when a player is looking for an NBA reboot, but Mudiay is in the right place for it.

“The consistency of a young guy to realize what it takes to do that night in and night out, I’ve been impressed, how he’s come in here and worked hard,” Hornacek said. “He sees that and he wants to get back to being able to do that all 48 minutes, and he’s played well with us.”



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