Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Josh Harrellson says it’s too cold here for him to bust out the jorts just yet.
But the man who goes by the Twitter handle “BigJorts55” said he hopes his new Knicks teammates feel comfortable enough to soon call him by his nickname.
“Not yet,” he said Tuesday at the Knicks facility. “But hopefully we can get them going.”
The Knicks acquired the 6-foot-10, 275-pound former Kentucky big man in the second round of the NBA Draft by sending $1 million to the New Orleans Hornets.
Now Harrellson admits he’s still amazed that he’s actually in the NBA and playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
“I was just in the locker room a little while ago, just thinking about I really don’t think it’s hit me yet that I’m actually in the NBA,” said Harrellson, who averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 38 games on last year’s Final Four team.
“I was just sitting there, looking around just seeing all the names and saw the New York Knicks logo on the floor and it’s just awesome to finally reach your dreams after you’ve been working so hard to make it here.”
The Knicks desperately need help at the center spot and have reached out to veterans Greg Foster, Kurt Thomas, Kwame Brown and 23-year-old Frenchman Alexis Ajinca.
The Knicks will also re-sign Jared Jeffries, likely to a one-year deal.
“He will re-sign with them,” agent Andy Miller said. “He’s looking forward to the opportunity. He felt comfortable with the team. He loves the city/area and has a great rapport with coach [Mike D’Antoni].”
As for Harrellson, who compares himself to Dennis Rodman and Kendrick Perkins, he believes he can help the Knicks.
“I’m tough, I’m going to go out there and do the little things,” he said. “I’m going to get offensive rebounds. I’m going to play good defense. I’m going to help players. I’m going to take charges.
“Just the little things that those two did to make their teams successful, Kendrick at Boston and Dennis Rodman for the Bulls. So just the little things that those two guys did, to make championship teams, that’s hopefully what I can do here.”
Because of the NBA lockout, Harrellson wasn’t able to play in the NBA summer leagues and admits he’s a step behind as a result.
“Since we didn’t have summer camp and lack of training camp, only two weeks, I’m a couple steps behind where I should be at this point, with the lack of not being able to have the coaching that I needed at this point,” he said.
But he spent most of the summer at Kentucky playing pickup games with and against LeBron James as well as current and former Kentucky stars Anthony Davis, John Wall, Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.
“I’ve got some of the greatest players that are in the NBA right now came from Kentucky so being able to go back there and play against those guys,” he said. “It was kind of like an NBA training facility at Kentucky so it was nice to have everybody there.”
Harrellson said Kentucky coach John Calipari, the former Nets coach, wasn’t around during the summer because he was out on the recruiting trail, but he has given Harrellson advice.
“He’s put a lot of players through the NBA,” Harrellson said. “He just says it’s a totally different level, you’ve gotta be at the best of your game. You’ve gotta be tip-top shape and you’ve just gotta go in there and play your game.”
Before arriving in New York this week, Harrellson attended the North Carolina-Kentucky game Saturday at Rupp Arena in which his No. 1-ranked alma mater won a tight one, 73-72 on a last-second block by the 6-11 Davis.
Asked if the Wildcats can win the first title of Calipari’s career this year, he said, “I think this is their year.
“I think they’re good. I think they lack a big man but if Eloy [Vargas] keeps stepping up and playing the way he’ been playing, they’ll be good.”
While his old team moves forward without him, Jorts is beginning a new chapter with the Knicks.
But he says he’ll wait until the spring to actually bust out the jorts.
“Once it warms up a little bit,” he said, “I’ll be wearing them.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.