GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Coming off a tumultuous trip and then the well-rounded play of their first home victory, the New York Knicks held a light practice Monday in an attempt to cement some form of identity, even as a growing group of injured players stood courtside.
Little is certain for the Knicks, who have a roster of strangers that seems poised to change on a whim. As the Knicks went 2-4 on their Western Conference trip, point guard Stephon Marbury criticized Coach Larry Brown's attempts at taming his play, and rumors swirled that the team was looking to deal him only two years after he came to New York with such fanfare. And Marbury is the longest-serving active team member.
But as a potential springboard, however modest, the Knicks can look at their solid second half in a 103-92 victory against Portland on Sunday afternoon. They can also take considerable comfort in the play of the rookie power forward Channing Frye, who has started to raise eyebrows.
"I wasn't aware how well he could shoot the ball," Brown said of the 6-foot-11 Frye, who, after an inconsistent summer and a preseason plagued by foul trouble, is averaging 13.2 points a game while playing an average of 21.3 minutes. "He can really shoot it."
Brown, who pronounces Frye's first name without a "g" at the end, added that such shooting is "something you can't teach."
Then, referring to former Knicks center Patrick Ewing, Brown added, "You can become a better shooter in the pros because we have so much time to work on it, but to shoot it as well as Patrick or he does — that's a gift."
The issue becomes how Frye, who is shooting 51 percent from the field, will react to teams adjusting their defense to his primary weapon, his outside shot. Frye, who appears unhurried on the court and in conversation, said that he had several moves in reserve. He said he had no doubt he would have to call on them, as he had been warned by the team's veterans to expect defensive shifts.
"A lot of people just think I'm a stand-up shooter, but I do have some things under wraps, and I continue to work," Frye said. Frye, who has also been effective when trailing on fast breaks, said that he tried to shoot from several spots on the court and learn how to play other positions. "If Coach needs me at the three or the two — heaven forbid — I'll be ready," said Frye, referring to small forward and shooting guard.
Brown said that Frye could expect some veterans to take umbrage to a rookie's scoring so easily and to test Frey's reputation of being soft.
"Coming in the league, a lot of people have heard he wasn't aggressive or physical, and with all rookies, he'll be challenged," Brown said.
Brown, who has been hesitant to embrace rookies, most recently in the case of Darko Milicic when Brown was coach of the Detroit Pistons, sounded almost smitten with Frye.
He said that Frye was a hard worker and "an amazing kid" and had only one fault—that he did not go to Brown's beloved alma mater, North Carolina (Frye went to Arizona).
"But he did OK," Brown said.
Frye is a reason Brown seems to be approaching Thanksgiving in top spirits despite the injuries and the uncertainties the Knicks have faced.
"I got a job that I love doing, exactly what I want to do," he said. "How many people have that opportunity? And I'm overpaid."