Saturday, April 27, 2013
Prigioni's relentless approach sets tone
By Jared Zwerling
Pablo Prigioni works as hard after games as he does during them.
BOSTON -- Game 3 is just hours in the books, the Knicks comfortably up 3-0, but Pablo Prigioni is still putting in work.
Back at the team hotel, the Knicks starting point guard isn't laying low. He's working with Dave Hancock, the team's director of training and conditioning, to make sure his right ankle, which was recently sprained, feels even better.
Mind you, on Friday night, Prigioni played 30 minutes, and he had one of his best games as a Knick, finishing with nine points (three 3-pointers) and a career-high five steals.
Prigioni's relentlessness defines him. Off the court, he keeps to a strict diet and gets at least eight hours of sleep every night. He brought that determination to his ankle recovery, going beyond most players' routines. How he was able to quickly bounce back, missing only Game 1, surprised some of his teammates, including Steve Novak.
"He worked literally three, four times a day in the morning, early in the day and late at night doing treatments with Dave Hancock, our trainer," Novak told ESPNNewYork.com. "Every time we were at practice, [Prigioni] was in there working. He was coming back for sessions at night, he was going to [Hancock's] house for sessions, so how quickly he got back is not typical."
On Friday night, Prigioni wasn't even 100 percent healthy. He said he was at 85 percent.
"Pablo's been unbelievable," J.R. Smith said. "I mean, the transition he's made into the NBA has helped us. He's getting steals and scrambling and making shots."
The way Prigioni keeps his body in check is the same way he keeps his opponents in check. After Avery Bradley scored 15 points in Game 1, Prigioni has limited him to eight points combined in Games 2 and 3 since then.
"He's really aggressive on the defensive end," Iman Shumpert said. "He's always trying to get us a new opportunity with a quick steal or a quick offensive rebound."
After the game, Carmelo Anthony said that Prigioni set the defensive tone for the Knicks, who had their best first half in the series, holding the Celtics to 31 points.
Shumpert (three steals) and the rest of the team followed suit. In fact, while they had 14 steals and only 11 turnovers, the Celtics had only six steals and 17 turnovers.
"I think we were pretty active today, all the guards," Prigioni said. "We got a lot of steals and, of course, we frustrated the opponent."
Prigioni also frustrated the Celtics with his extra burst off of pick-and-rolls and quick-release 3-point shooting. An overlooked element of his game is how he's adjusted to the speed of NBA play since he became the starting point guard. The faster pace he's been playing has boosted the Knicks' transition game.
"I think I'm adjusting finally," Prigioni said. "At the end of the season, I feel more comfortable with the rhythm, with this basketball."
This is Prigioni's first NBA playoff run, and he said that the only way he'll enjoy it is if the team continues to play well and wins. Of course, he'll be a big reason for that.