2011 Game Thread: Knicks @ Bulls

It’s been 5 days since the Knicks have played, and I don’t know about you but I’m itching for some action. New York heads into Chicago to face the Bulls, a team that seems to have improved from a year ago. The 2010 Bulls were 27th on offense, and this year currently rank 15th. I know it’s only 3 games, but Derrick Rose’s scoring is up 8 points (28.2 pts/36) from last year’s average, although his turnovers have skyrocketed as well (5.1 to/36). It’ll be interested to see how those progress as the season wears on. Joakim Noah is still dominating on the boards (5.1 oreb/36, 13.8 reb/36), and the Knicks will have to keep him and teammates Taj Gibons and Omer Asik from giving the Bulls second chances. For those that are unfamiliar with Asik, he’s Chicago’s version of Mozgov, but just replace fouls with injuries.

The Knicks will have Anthony Randolph, who is back from his ankle injury. D’Antoni has reportedly said that the youngster wouldn’t see a lot of minutes early, but wasn’t against expanding his role based on production. Other things to observe is Stoudemire’s high turnover rate (much like Rose), Gallinari’s slump (another 11 minute game and you have to figure he’s injured), Landry Fields textbook play (a joy to watch), Wilson Chandler’s TS% (especially in the fourth quarter), and Roger Mason’s minutes (will he get any with Randolph back). Should be good stuff.

A Look After 3 Games

With 3 games in the books, let’s take a quick look at how the team is doing.

* A few interesting things to notice with Amar’e’s stats. His turnovers (5.7 to/36) are more than double his career rate (2.7 to/36). His worst in Phoenix was 3.1, which he did in 2004 and 2007. Astute KnickerBlogger readers have noted that he’s getting the ball on the perimeter too often. Additionally he’s attempted 5 three pointers so far (1.7 3pa/36) which is also far above his career average. It’s possible that his perimeter play has also upped his assist rate (3.0 ast/36) which is also double his career rate (1.3 ast/36). However from what I’ve seen that rate might be from playing alongside Landry Fields (more on that tomorrow). Obviously giving the ball away 5+ times a game is awful for any player, so you’d expect that number to decline.

* Some stats to keep your eyes on for Raymond Felton as the season progresses (aka which Raymond Felton are the Knicks getting?):

3P%
2009: 28.5
2010: 38.5
2011: 33.3

TS%
2009: 48.3
2010: 52.5
2011: 52.7

* Please tell me Gallinari is hurt. He shot poorly in the preseason, and he’s continued it into the regular season. Making only 18% of your three pointers is not a trait you’d expect from him. If his shooting is being hampered that badly, he should not be on the floor, period. Without Gallo, the Knicks really lack a three point shooter. Although it seems that Bill Walker could fill the void.

* At the KnickerBlogger meet-up I yelled “David Lee” every time Landry Fields touched the ball. It’s because he, like Lee, is great at contributing without holding the ball in his hands on each possession. Actually he’s a bit reminiscent of another Knick: Renaldo Balkman. Granted the two have their differences. Balkman was a much better defender, especially with regards to shot blocking and steals. But Fields has a more refined offense, including a jump shot all the way out to three. Differences aside, Fields, like Balkman, gets most of his offense by making strong cuts to the hoop and finishing in the paint. Again, I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

* Toney Douglas is 5th on the team in minutes, earning a chunk of them at SG. He seems to clearly have the edge over Roger Mason. The former Spur has been a disappointment, and isn’t playing as you would have expected given his career stats. He’s yet to hit a three pointer, and his TS% is a unbelievably low 11.3%.

* Not much to dislike statistically about Ronny Turiaf (20.3 PER, 65.1% TS%, 4.1 blk/36, 3.6 ast/36). Ok maybe defensive rebounding is an eyesore (3.1 dreb/36).

Celtics 105, Knicks 101

Tonight New York went into Boston hoping to keep their 2011 season on an upbeat. Unfortunately they came up short against the Celtics, losing 105-101. Although Boston held the lead for most of the game, New York kept it close and occasionally took a lead here & there. In fact New York missed a great opportunity with 31 seconds left in the game. Toney Douglas stole the ball from Ray Allen, but Wilson Chandler missed a three pointer to bring New York within 1 point. After a pair of Paul Pierce free throws, Stoudemire made a three pointer (his second of the game) to slim the lead to 103-101. But another pair of Pierce free throws and a final attempt by Amar’e was blocked, giving Boston the victory.

Some notes:
Amar’e Stoudemire provided efficient scoring with 27 points on 17 shots. He had a pair of blocked shots, but one of his defensive lapses hurt the team. It was on a switch, and I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but he seemed upset that Toney Douglas went over a pick. Amar’e was clapping his hands, and left his man open for an easy basket. Otherwise I thought he played well enough defensively.

Toney Douglas chipped in with 12 points on 8 shots, but he had a head scratching moment near the end of the first half. Douglas forced an ill advised shot on a broken play, even though there were 11 seconds left on the shot clock. On the next possession he threw a cross court pass out of bounds. I’m not Paul Ekman, but D’Antoni’s facial expression wasn’t “happy” at those plays.

Danilo Gallinari continued his regressive play. He was 0-6, including 0-3 from behind the arc, and ended with 2 points in 11 minutes. He hasn’t looked good since last year. This is very concerning considering this is the year he’s supposed to make forward strides. I’d like to hear a reason why he isn’t playing well, that doesn’t include the phrase “sophomore slump.” (Yes I know technically it’s his third season…)

Wilson Chandler contributed 19 points on 20 shots, but more importantly played 33 minutes, much of it at SF instead of Gallo. Chandler was active defensively, and led the team with 4 blocked shots. Unfortunately his three point shooting, especially that attempt in the last minute, hurt the team tonight. He was 1-7 from downtown, which has me wondering if he’ll ever improve in this area. (Yeah I know it’s only game 2, but don’t forget his history.)

Roger Mason took one shot, and it was an awfully forced attempt in a fast break, which he missed. I want this guy to light it up from three, because well that’s his strength. I don’t see him getting minutes once Azubuike returns, unless he goes NBA Jam from three.

Finally Landry Fields is such a joy to watch. He’s active at all times. You’ll see him cutting to the hoop without the ball, being active on the boards, helping out on defense – everything that would take a superior athlete and make him a next level player. Fields led the team with 10 boards, and only had 11 points on 10 shots. But he didn’t have a single turnover, and dished out 4 assists. He’s a keeper.

Knicks 2011 Season Preview – Shooting Guards

With the Knicks 2011 season almost upon us, it’s time to analyze the roster. Usually teams have some stability from one year to the next, but New York has only a third of the players returning. How New York is going to perform is more of a mystery than previous years. This year’s I’ll look at each position and attempt to address the critical question for those players.

Shooting Guards: Who will be the starter?

It’s hard to believe, but the longest tenured Knick after Eddy Curry is Wilson Chandler. Over the past few seasons Chandler has been the starting shooting guard due to a lack of alternatives. Offensively he’s miscast at the two because of his hurtful three point shooting (30.8% career) and his inability to get to the free throw line (0.15 ftm/fga). Both of these make him less than a perfect fit in D’Antoni’s offense. Defensively he’s about average; at times his length is helpful, other times his lack of speed is a liability.

The time for Chandler, who stands at 6-8 and 220lbs, masquerading as a two could come to an end this season. There’s been talk of D’Antoni using him at forward more, and he started at PF when Amar’e sat out a preseason game. But more importantly is that Donnie Walsh brought in numerous shooting guards in an attempt to shore up the position. At the top of the list is Kelenna Azubuike. In fact if it weren’t for his injury, it’s likely that he would already be the starter. Career-wise compared to Chandler, Azubuike is a better three point shooter (40.9% to 30.8% 3p%) and slasher (3.4 to 2.7 fta/36). Unfortunately his inability to participate in preseason along with his murky timetable for return (Dr. D’Antoni says Christmas, while Dr. Azubuike says Thanksgiving) means that the Knicks will have to look elsewhere to find an opening day starter.

If Chandler is moved to forward, and Azubuike isn’t healthy, then Bill Walker is probably next on the depth chart. I’ve talked in the past about Walker’s incredible efficiency:

Walker doesn’t average a lot of points (15.4 pts/36 in 2010), but his efficiency (64.9% ts%, 62.5% efg%) is through the roof for a small forward. Only 10 players 6-6 or shorter had a true shooting percentage of 60% or better last year, and no one other than Walker was north of 62%. According to HoopData, Walker attempts the bulk of his shots from behind the arc (50%) or at the rim (33.2%); he doesn’t take a lot of shots in between those areas. So far his career NBA three point shooting percentage is a sizzling 42.7%. Walker relies on his hops to take the action to the cup, including converting a fair share of alley-oops. He moves better without the ball, and doesn’t cough it up much (his turnovers per 36 minutes were a minuscule 1.3).

However his deficiencies (rebounding, defense, and passing) just scream bench player. And the same could be said of Roger Mason. Primarily a three point specialist, Mason does a tiny bit of everything. Emphasis on the word tiny. From the numbers alone it seems he lacks the athleticism (rebounding, free throws, steals, etc.) to be effective. Mason can play the point in small stretches, and he might find some minutes there as well.

Like the point guard position, there’s a spot here for a rookie with a steep climb up the depth chart. Landry Fields has been as impressive as one can get for an unheralded second round pick. At the risk of using a cliche Fields is a “glue guy” or a “heady player.” In other words he doesn’t score a heck of a lot, but does it efficiently and has a well rounded game. More specifically through 5 preseason games he’s averaging 14.5 pts/36 on a sizzling TS% of 66.4%, in addition to 6.1 reb/36. If those numbers are any indication of his true level of play, he’d be a better choice than either Walker or Mason.

In short, I can sum up the Knicks shooting guard starter through a logic statement.

  • Is Azubuike 100% healthy?
  • Else is Wilson Chandler still a SG?
  • Else does D’Antoni trust Landry Fields yet (alternatively is it after March)?
  • Else flip a coin between Walker and Mason.
  • Else if the coin landed on its side Then Toney Douglas.
  • Last Year FGA 3PA FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
    Azubuike (2009) 12.8 3.2 3.5 1.7 5.6 1.8 0.9 0.8 1.4 16.1
    Chandler 13.3 2.3 2.5 1.4 5.4 2.1 0.7 0.8 1.7 15.4
    Mason 11.8 6.3 0.8 0.3 3.8 3.3 0.7 0.3 1.4 11.9
    Walker 10.9 5.4 2.3 0.7 4.1 1.9 1.1 0.1 1.3 15.4
    Career FGA 3PA FTA ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
    Azubuike 12.5 3.7 3.4 1.8 6 1.7 0.9 0.7 1.4 15.6
    Chandler 13.5 3.1 2.7 1.4 5.8 2.1 0.8 0.9 1.7 15.3
    Mason 12 6.2 1.4 0.3 3.4 2.8 0.7 0.3 1.5 13.4
    Walker 10.6 4.3 2.6 0.8 4.3 1.9 1.1 0.2 1.7 15.3

    Last Year PER TS% eFG% 3P% FT%
    Azubuike (2009) 19.8 56.2% 52.0% 44.8% 80.8%
    Chandler 13.7 53.4% 50.2% 26.7% 80.6%
    Mason 9.7 49.0% 47.8% 33.3% 79.4%
    Walker 14.6 64.9% 62.5% 43.1% 79.6%
    Career PER TS% eFG% 3P% FT%
    Azubuike 14.3 55.7% 51.9% 40.9% 77.0%
    Chandler 13.1 51.9% 48.7% 30.8% 77.9%
    Mason 11.2 53.1% 50.7% 38.1% 87.1%
    Walker 13.8 64.8% 62.4% 42.7% 76.4%

    Poll

    Who will start the most games for the Knicks at SG this year?

    • Wilson Chandler (38%, 136 Votes)
    • Kelenna Azubuike (28%, 100 Votes)
    • Toney Douglas (17%, 61 Votes)
    • Landry Fields (11%, 39 Votes)
    • Bill Walker (4%, 16 Votes)
    • Roger Mason (2%, 6 Votes)

    Total Voters: 358

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    Mozgov’s Preseason Garden Debut

    After a European Road Trip, the Knicks finally returned home for their first preseason game against the Celtics. The significance of this game was Timofey Mozgov’s first start for New York. The Knicks have been looking for a starting center to play alongside Amar’e Stoudemire, and it seems that Ronny Turiaf may have played himself out of the starting role for now.

    Mozgov started off his Garden debut on the right foot. He made his first shot, an 18 foot jumper with 9:40 left in the first quarter. As Felton had the ball cross court dribbling towards the foul line, Mozgov was unguarded on the weakside and stepped into an open spot to receive the pass for an easy shot. Twenty four seconds later he made another open jumper, this time along the baseline. With 7:07 remaining, he showed great court vision and hit a wide open Felton in stride for an easy basket. Less than a minute later, he forced a driving Pierce into a turnover and was rewarded with the ball on the offensive end.

    His first quarter wasn’t all positive, as Mozgov picked up a careless foul on a Jermaine O’Neal drive, and got a silly technical walking to the bench. The rest of the game was less impressive. He picked up two fouls in the second quarter. One nullifying a block on Pierce (Erden recovered and scored despite the foul). He came back in the third quarter, but back to back turnovers ended his night on a sour note.

    Its too early to drink the Kompot on him being an NBA quality starting center. At the end of the night he only saw 15 minutes, netted 5 points and 3 rebounds along with 4 fouls. From a strictly statistical standpoint it’s what you’d expect from a rookie backup center. However a visual perspective showed him to be athletic for a big man with flashes of ability. Against Harangody, Mozgov closed out nicely on a perimeter shot attempt. His pass to Felton was Sabonis-worthy. And at least once he fought for a rebound tipping it to a teammate. In the end, Mozgov showed more potential than you’d expect from a player who flew under the NBA scouts radar. However he also reminded New Yorkers that he’s not quite ready for prime time.


    More game notes:

  • Amar’e finished with 30 points (on 13 shots) but the Knicks still lost. I wonder how many times I’m going to repeat that phrase?
  • On the flip side, Felton had 7 points on 11 shots. He didn’t have a particularly good defensive game either.
  • Bill Walker had 11 points (on 9 shots) and hit half of his threes. But he had 0 rebounds and 0 assists.
  • Randolph led the team in rebounds (6 tied with Gallo), but coughed it up 5 times. On the court it looks like he’s trying too hard.
  • After Amar’e the best players for the Knicks were Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields. The latter only played limited minutes, but you figure he’s working himself up the rotation, especially with Roger Mason’s poor night. Ill-Will looked great, hitting 2 of 3 treys and attempting 5 free throws. If he can do that consistently…
  • Interview with Howard Beck (10/12/2010)

    Looking for more information on the Knicks this early in the season, I picked up the phone and called Howard Beck of the New York Times. He spent 17 minutes and 33 seconds answering questions about the team.

    Mike Kurylo: What’s the mood of the team?

    Howard Beck: It’s not easy to detect right now. It’s so early. I think they’re still trying to feel each other out. If you ask they’re all trying to be optimistic, and feeling like they’re in the early stages of something good here. The mood is a hard thing to put their finger on when they’ve only played 2 preseason games and have been in camp for only a couple of weeks. As we’ve all pointed out numerous times – it’s a completely new team, so they’re still trying to feel each other out and figure out what their (team) identity is. It’s early so every team is feeling optimistic and feeling like there are some good days ahead. But with it being so early, it’s just hard to put a label on the Knicks.

    Mike Kurylo: How different is this from teams of previous years? Where any of them this optimistic?

    Howard Beck: The cliche of October is that everybody feels great about their chances, but with the Knicks it was within a narrow zone of “Hey this year we might get to 35 wins.” This year the difference is a new beginning. The last 5-6 years here, at a minimum, you couldn’t say anything was a new beginning. They had these fake new beginnings, false hopes pinned to “we just got Stephon Marbury” or “we just got Eddy Curry” or “we just got Zach Randolph” and it was always some false promise of a franchise player that couldn’t really lift the franchise. This is the first time the Knicks actually have a true franchise player, someone who is among the best in the league at his position and overall, with Amar’e Stoudemire. So that makes it different. For the first time the players who are still here, and there are only a handful of them, have someone that they can look at and say “that’s our guy”, “that’s our leader”, “he’s not only going to be our leading scorer, but he’s going to be our spiritual leader, our team leader, our morale leader; the guy who sets the tone every day.” So that’s a huge change, because they haven’t had anyone who remotely resembles that in years.

    On the other hand since 10 of these guys weren’t even here last year, it’s not the same guys that are coming in, it’s completely new guys. These guys aren’t carrying the burdens of the Stephon Marbury-Isiah Thomas era. Roger Mason, Ronnie Turiaf, Raymond Felton, and Amar’e Stoudemire – they don’t carry the weight of the Knicks misery from the last 5 years. And that’s positive. They don’t have to worry about what the franchise (has been recently). These guys were brought in by Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh to be part of their team, going forward. The last several camps were characterized by guys who were going to be purged or were brought in solely for the purpose for their contract to expire. So the emotional investment of (this year’s team) are deeper.

    Mike Kurylo: Speaking of Amar’e – is he really going to play the 4 exclusively, primarily, or occasionally? What’s your take from what you’ve seen in practice?

    Howard Beck: That’s a great question because over the last week or so, watching Turiaf struggle a little bit and watching Mozgov flash between promising and foul prone I’ve been thinking about that same thing. And I’ll ask Mike D’Antoni about that today when I get there. In Phoenix, the Suns were widely successful with Amar’e as their so-called undersized/non-traditional center, and I don’t know why the Knicks can’t be successful as well. I think they have to (try) a banger/traditional center next to Amar’e to help him out and keep him out of foul trouble. But I think there is a lot of merit of playing it the Suns way – which is go undersized at every position and just outrun the other team up and down the court. You know there are only a few true centers who are scoring centers in the league anyway, so it’s not as if Amar’e Stoudemire is going to just sit there every night and get banged on by low-post/back-you-down centers. There just aren’t many of them anymore. I think we’ll end up seeing Stoudemire at the 5 a lot, but I think Mike D’Antoni doesn’t want to start that way. He’s inclined to, if he can, keep Amar’e at his natural position.

    Mike Kurylo: Let’s talk about one of the guys you mentioned: Mozgov. He looks like a foul machine out there. He’s a big guy that’s very agile for his size, but how is the team working on that? Do they have refs at practice?

    Howard Beck: Aside from the occasional scrimmage when you bring in refs, it doesn’t happen much. Most guys have to learn on the fly in exhibition games. He’s got 6 games left, so that’s a lot of time for him to get acclimated and work out all the kinks…

    Mike Kurylo: … right, he’s got 36 fouls…

    Howard Beck: Exactly, and he’ll use 30 of them, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but you hope his foul rate will go down as he progresses. So if this is a question of his athleticism or his positioning or his technique, I’m not sure I know the answer to that question after two games. But clearly if they want him as their starting center, fouls are the primary area of concern. They know what he can do skill wise. They know he can shoot. They know he can rebound a little and block some shots. They know he can get up and down the court and finish on the break. So can he stay on the floor? Can he not put the other team at the foul line? They still have 6 games to figure that out.

    Mike Kurylo: One of the things that D’Antoni talked about was the ability to go 9, 10, or 11 players deep in the rotation. Do you see that as being a reality?

    Howard Beck: I think it’s realistic in the sense that he’s got a lot of players who are about even. In the past they were about even because unfortunately they were all equally mediocre. Right now they have some guys with good intriguing qualities about them. So it’s about how you want to go about it. How often you want to go big or go small. Whether you want to go with two point guard/play-makers in the back court. If you want to go with shooters. There’s a lot of ways they can go and most of these guys deserve playing time. Landry Fields had such a good summer league and training camp that he’s pushed his way into the conversation too.

    It comes down to when D’Antoni feels he needs to go 11 deep to keep up the pace and keep his guys fresh. And whether the guys who look like they deserve playing time continue to earn it. But you can make the case for probably 11 guys right now off the bat based on their experience or skill set or whether there’s a certain guy you need in a game (situation). I think it’s quite possible (to have a deep rotation). It sounds like he’s committed (to trying) if all those guys are earning the time.

    Mike Kurylo: Let’s talk about Anthony Randolph for a second. He looks like to be an inefficient scorer. What does the coaching staff think of him? Is he a starter?

    Howard Beck: He’s not a starter yet, because first it’s not clear what position he would start at. He’s got some really intriguing abilities that would make him a 3, 4 or 5 depending on who is around him. Right now the priority or concern is whether they have enough shooting on the floor. With him out there alongside the starters guys are going to cheat off of him to play Amar’e. The thing with this coaching staff, and you heard it with David Lee all the time who went from a banger to a person with a knock down jump shot, the coaching staff believes in guys and allows them to do their thing. And if they’re trying to learn or become a shooter they’re not going to yank him if he misses one or two. I think during the season Randolph might have a little less latitude. But right now during the preseason I don’t think it’s a problem for Anthony Randolph to go out there and say “look I’ve worked on my jumpshot all summer, I’m trying to get it down, it’s going down for me in practice, and I want to shoot the open shot.” He should. The coaching staff always encourages these players to shoot the open shot as long as it’s in the flow of the offense, to take the opportunities. Eventually he’s got to start making them, but that’s how you get the confidence that you can do it. A lot of guys get the mechanics down and can make them in practice but they can’t do it in the game. That’s mental, that’s nerves, or a lot of other things. Maybe the same transformation Amar’e Stoudemire or David Lee did (in developing a jump shot) Anthony Randolph can make. And if he can, he can be a fantastic weapon out there. But that remains to be seen.

    Mike Kurylo: You mentioned the word ‘shooting’, which reminds me of the Knicks’ shooting guard situation. Chandler has been the default guy for a few seasons even though he probably fits more of a forward’s build. There seems to be a lot of competition this year, even though Azubuike is hurt and isn’t playing. How is that position shaping out?

    Howard Beck: It’s an intriguing group because they’re all very different. Wilson Chandler got the nod initially because he’s one of the few returning guys, knows the system and he played almost the entire season at shooting guard last year and did alright. The nice thing of having him there is as long as he can stay with his man – he’s 6-8 and strong with long arms and he can harass guys – (he’s a) defensive presence and can be a real asset. His jump shot and his three point shot are unreliable enough to be a concern. It depends on what your priorities are. If you’re priority is shooting then Roger Mason is an accomplished shooter, although a little undersized. If you like Wilson’s size and defensive abilities and his length then you put him out there.

    This is goes back to the Amar’e Stoudemire question, because if you put him at center Wilson Chandler can be your power forward. D’Antoni said power forward was his best position. He likes him in the post and he likes his strength inside. I don’t know if you get enough rebounding from him, but if he’s at the 4 and Gallo is at the 3, now the 2 is open for one of your more natural shooters like Roger Mason or when healthy Azubuike. And Azubuike is the sleeper here. I think if he were healthy from day 1, then he’s the best fit at shooting guard. Not because he’s necessarily a much better player than Wilson Chandler, they’re different, but Azubuike is a better shooter and if you look at what he’s done his first couple of seasons, he could become their Raja Bell. Hit the open three and defend. Those are Azubuike’s strengths. If he were healthy, and maybe when he gets healthy, he’s the best fit there.

    Mike Kurylo: I only have time for one more question, so here you go: Who is the starting five on Christmas Day?

    Howard Beck: Wow. (chuckle) Two games into the preseason and I have to predict the lineup for Christmas Day. I’m just gong to go on a whim here, with a few impulsive judgments that I wouldn’t normally make. Amar’e Stoudemire at center, Wilson Chandler at power forward, Danilo Gallinari at small forward, a healthy Kelenna Azubuike at shooting guard, and Raymond Felton at point guard.

    2010 Summer Interview: Roger Mason

    I sat down with Roger Mason for 10 minutes and 08 seconds, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.

    Mike Kurylo: So what have you been doing this offseason?

    Roger Mason: I’ve been working. I’ve been working. I had a tough season last year, and I’ve been doing everything in my power to make sure this season is more of a success.

    Mike Kurylo: About last year: you got injured, and your shooting percentage which seems to be your bread & butter took a dip. What do you attribute that to?

    Roger Mason: (Points to the scar on his right hand. Then pauses for a couple of seconds.) No, I mean it was a different situation for me. My minutes were down. Healthy Manu was back. It was just a different scenario. For a guy that does what I do, it’s tough to get it done in a different situation.

    Mike Kurylo: There was a web site that took videos of your shooting threes and they noticed that your footwork was off. In the older video, you pretty much jumped and landed in the same spot, but last year you weren’t. Were you overcompensating for your hand?

    Roger Mason: I think I did a lot of things to overcompensate for my hand. You know, it happens and you have to adjust. There are no excuses. There’s other people playing with injuries. Mine happened to be on my shooting hand, which affected me a little bit. But at the end of the day, I know I’m one of the best shooters in the NBA. And now it’s time for me to prove it and help this team to win.

    Mike Kurylo: And you feel healthy right now?

    Roger Mason: Yeah. The surgery was successful and I’m ready to go.

    Mike Kurylo: How hard is it to come back? Shooting three pointers at your level requires perfect mechanics. How hard it that to have an injury, adjust your shooting, and then get back to where you were when you were healthy?

    Roger Mason: When you play for a championship, like I have been doing for the Spurs, you do whatever you can to help the team. Whether you are injured or not, I still feel like you have to concentrate and do what you have to do. I’m not making any excuses. I was just trying to fight through it.

    Mike Kurylo: You mentioned that you worked with a shooting coach in the past. Do you still work with one?

    Roger Mason: Yeah. He’s basically a skill work guy. I’m a big basketball workout guy. Keeping the artilery strong, and keeping that shot ready.

    Mike Kurylo: Do a lot of players work with a skill coach?

    Roger Mason: I think so. Some do more than others. Some play 5-on-5 and that’s their workout, and some like to do what I do.

    Mike Kurylo: Do you go back and look at tape of yourself shooting or do you know at this point what you have to do?

    Roger Mason: I’ve been doing this for so long. There are times when you need another perspective, and there are times when you know what’s going on with your shot and can make the adjustments yourself.

    Mike Kurylo: We’ve talked a lot about your shooting. What else can you bring to this team?

    Roger Mason: My leadership. My defensive mentality. Not last year, but year before last I played a lot of point guard. The pick & roll is a big part of my game as well. Just being a guy that will fit in with this system. I will do that.

    Mike Kurylo: How can you provide leadership on the team?

    Roger Mason: I think that there is a respect level there. I’ve had success in this league. I’ve been a part of the playoffs the last 4 years. And I’m bringing that with me. I think I’ve had some of the best leaders in our game with Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Manu and Tony. I’m really excited to bring that to a younger group.

    Mike Kurylo: Given D’Antoni’s like for the three ball and how some players increase the number of shot attempts, how do you feel that works to your strength? Do you feel like you can be a starter on this team?

    Roger Mason: Yeah. I’ve been a starter in this league, and had a lot of success. I can start and do the same thing here like I did in San Antonio. If they need me to come off the bench I can do that also. I’m not just a spot up guy. I’m a guy that plays with the rhythm. I’m a guy that comes off pick & rolls and makes plays. But I’m also a guy that can hit the spot up shots.

    Mike Kurylo: With so many new players there are a lot of open starting spots. How do you feel about the competition? Do you feel you have an open shot to become a starter or get into the rotation?

    Roger Mason: I don’t get caught up in starting or not starting, because I’ve done it already. I did it for a whole year a few years ago, and had success. The important thing is that we have guys that do a lot of different things well. We’re going to need everybody. I think it’s a unique situation because I do what I do, and there are other guys with other strengths. You put that together and that’s what a good team is about. And that’s how you win games.

    Mike Kurylo: There’s a lot of talk that the East is loaded at the top. How do you feel this team can do?

    Roger Mason: The NBA is funny, like all sports. You have to be a little lucky. You have to stay healthy. And things have to go your way. There’s no doubt we have the talent, the system, and the coaching to get things done. Now is just about doing it.