Knicks legend talks old rivalry, beginning of new one

Knicks legend talks old rivalry, beginning of new one

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
2:20 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW YORKPrior to Saturdays Bulls-Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, CSNChicago.com caught up with Knicks legend John Starksa central figure in the Chicago-New York rivalry of the 1990s and now v\: behavior:url(defaultVML);o\: behavior:url(defaultVML);w\: behavior:url(defaultVML);.shape behavior:url(defaultVML);st1\:behavior:url(defaultieooui) the Knicks' Alumni Relations and Fan Development Adviso--to talk about the new budding rivalry, the Knicks revival, his thoughts on the Bulls potential, his influence on some of Chicagos current players and his memories of that era, including former teammate Kurt Thomas and one of his assistant coaches in New York, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
CSNChicago.com: Its not the same as when you guys had the rivalry, but do you see it developing into that type of thing, since both teams are young?
John Starks: If both teams continue to have success, thats the main thing when you try to create rivalries. Both teams have to be on top of their games. Obviously it hasnt been that way for a minutefor usand Chicago, over the last couple of years, has been starting to get it back. As we continue to have that type of success, it will continue to create that type of potential of a good rivalry.
CSNChicago.com: What are your thoughts about the Knicks revival this year?

John Starks: Oh, its been very good, very positive. The guys have been responding this year. Obviously bringing in Amarea true superstarand bringing in Raymond Felton, a very solid point guard thats capable of running the team and making big plays and hitting big shots, it means so much. And then, the development of Wilson Chandler, as well as Gallinari, has been a very rewarding feeling for us as an organization. Then, youre talking about Landry Fields, whos been a big, big bonus, coming in here and doing what hes doing, makes a big difference in how this team is playing.
CSNChicago.com: Can you pinpoint anybody on this rosternot necessarily of yourself, game-wisebut the heart that you played with, the toughness?

John Starks: Raymond Felton comes to mind. Hes that type of player. Hes a kid that that won a national championship before in college and has been trying to prove himself since he got in the league. He had a lot of success last year with the Charlotte Bobcats, leading them to the playoffs. He really reminds me of myself.

CSNChicago.com: As far as the BullsI dont know how much youve had a chance to watch them; obviously Derrick Rose is the guy everybody talks aboutbut youve got guys like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, they talk about growing up in New York and watching you play. How much does that mean to you that guysand theyre even big menthey got inspired by you?
John Starks: You know, it means a lot. Those are two very talented young players that you mentioned and to see them progress in this league and the way they come in and work, its kind of like a throwback to the old-school players. Guys that really appreciate the opportunity of playing in this league and they go out there and try to improve year after year. You talk about Joakim, when he came in, he wasnt really that highly thought of as a very solid big man, but he has developed his game over the years. And when you talk about Taj, hes proving himself year after year. So, it means a lot to the league when you have young players like that, that are committed.

CSNChicago.com: The Bulls in general, where do you see them this year, as far as their ceiling or moving forward even, what they can do as far as being an upper-echelon team and making a potential championship run?

John Starks: Its all within the framework of the team itself. Theyve got a good coach in Tom Thibodeau and theyve got good assistant coaches, and I know they have former players that are around the team, so the sky is the limit for those guys. Its just how far within themselves that they want to go.

CSNChicago.com: Did Tom Thibodeau ever coach you here?

John Starks: Tom was my assistant coach. Tom has come a long way and Im glad to see he got an opportunity to be a head coach, and hes doing a fabulous job with a good, young team in Chicago. Thats a credit to him and his work ethic, and what hes learned over the years coaching under Doc Rivers and then under Jeff Van Gundy. Guys like that paid their dues and then when they get the opportunity, they have to take advantage of it and hes showing that hes a very qualified coach.
CSNChicago.com: Is it crazy to still see Kurt Thomas out here?
John Starks: Yeah, it is a little crazy, but like I say, hes a throwback to the old-school days and guys like that understand what it means to be in this league and they work at it. If youre a big man and youre working hard like that, you can stay in this league because they need guys like him with his experience to help with the young players, so its good to see that hes still kicking the tires.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."