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. –– Sometimes Josh Harrellson looks around at his new Knicks teammates and feels awed by what he sees.
Instead of playing alongside Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb on Kentucky’s Final Four team, “Jorts” is now running with Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler on a team dreaming of an NBA championship.
“Definitely,” the 6-foot-8 Harrellson, nicknamed “Jorts,” told SNY.tv Monday at Knicks media day.
“You know, it’s still just surreal to me that I’m actually living out my dream, having another opportunity to put on another jersey and playing for the name on the front of it.
“And just doing the little things and just being able to continue doing what I love.”
Harrellson averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 38 games on last year’s Final Four team.
He missed out on playing in an NBA summer league because of the lockout, but so far he has impressed Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.
“I think he can be a player,” D’Antoni said Wednesday. “I think that he’s a skilled big man who knows how to play. Now we’ll see if that translates into a game, but so far, so good. Really happy with him….We’ll see when 20,000 people are in there [watching him].”
The Knicks are now loaded in the frontcourt with bigs like Chandler, Stoudemire and Jared Jeffries and will soon add 7-footer Jerome Jordan, too.
Faced with this competition, Harrellson is focusing on doing the little things on court, playing defense, rebounding, setting picks, hustling for loose balls and being a good teammate.
“I know what they drafted me on, what I did at Kentucky,” Harrellson said. “So I’m just going to come here and do the same thing, and hopefully that’s good enough to go out there and get playing time. Even if it’s just 8-10 minutes a game, just to give Amar’e and Tyson blows, just to keep them going. Or if it’s games where they’re wore out or tired from three in a row, four out of five, so I’m definitely going to do whatever I have to do to make our team successful.”
Harrellson and guard Iman Shumpert are the Knicks rookies, but the team has added several new pieces in Chandler, Jordan and point guard Mike Bibby.
“[Harrellson] is a rebounder,” Bibby said. “He’s not as tall as everybody else but he gets his nose in there. He plays hard.”
Teammate Bill Walker called “Jorts” cerebral.
“He’s a worker, he’s a smart player,” said Walker, who has been running with Harrellson on the Knicks second unit. “I haven’t had the chance to watch him at Kentucky but he’s very cerebral.”
Harrellson said he spoke with Kentucky coach John Calipari this week after he signed with the Knicks.
“I said thank you for everything and he was real happy for me that I reached my dreams,” Harrellson said.
Harrellson didn’t bring up then-No. 1 Kentucky’s 73-72 loss to Indiana on Saturday with Calipari, but he agreed that the Cats should have fouled on the last play when Christian Watford drained a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“They should’ve fouled,” he said. “For a young team like they have, I’m not going to say it’s good to lose but it’s a learning experience for them and hopefully they come back more humble and hungry.”
Humble and hungry, that about sums up where Jorts is right now.
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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 whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.