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.
In Knicks Camp, C.J. Leslie Hoping to Prove Doubters Wrong
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — C.J. Leslie went undrafted last June, a shocking development for a guy who was once projected as a second-round pick.
The Knicks ended up signing the 6-foot-9 N.C. State forward in July as a free agent, and now he’s looking to make the team’s final roster — and prove the doubters wrong.
“Oh yeah definitely. I gotta show people that I can come out here and actually play and let these teams know that they made a mistake,” Leslie told SNY.tv this week during training camp.
With 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts, Leslie will be battling a group of other young players like Jeremy Tyler, Cole Aldrich, Ike Diogu, Josh Powell, Toure’ Murry, Chris Smith and Chris Douglas-Roberts for a place on the final roster.
“Only time will tell,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said. “C.J. is a talented kid. But really he’s got to figure out how to play hard and play at this level so that’s what we’ll use this month — we’ll try to fit him in and get him some playing time here. I don’t have to burn Melo or guys like that and get them ready for the regular season.”
Leslie was always known as a talented guy, but questions have lingered about his dedication and willingness to play hard all the time.
The Knicks have six preseason games to evaluate him and the other new guys.
“We got to teach these young guys,” Woodson said. “We don’t have a lot of time to wait on them. It’s important they pay attention and I’m going to lean on our veteran guys to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do in terms of helping these young guys.”
The main message Leslie said he’s gotten from Woodson is this: “They’re going to need us not to be scared. So he tells me all the time, don’t play scared. Just go out there and play and have fun. You’re going to make mistakes but you want to limit the mistakes you make.”
Leslie said he’s been getting advice from Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert about how to handle his first NBA training camp.
“Shump is always right there in my ear, he’s just letting me know what to do, what not to do, everything the coaches like during training camp,” Leslie told SNY.tv. “Melo, he talks to me a lot, too. He just pulls me to the side and talks to me. Between Shump and Melo, they are the ones who are always in my ear.”
Anthony said it’s important for him to be there for the young guys because he was once in their shoes.
“I just want to be there for [Tim Hardaway Jr.], be there for CJ, be there for the rookies in general, just like I was looking for someone to be there when I was a rookie,” Anthony said.
Leslie averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds last season with the Wolfpack, and believes his speed can help the team in transition.
“Me getting out and running, and me being quick and fast, that’s going to allow me to help them a lot with that transition and I think I fit well in that,” he said.
Photo: NY Knicks
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, 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.