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Saturday, November 21, 2009
On the lifeline between the Knicks, Eddy Curry, and William Wesley

By Henry Abbott

 
Ray Amanti/NBAE via Getty Images
William Wesley, to those who have lost patience with Eddy Curry: "At the end of the day, we have to remember that these are still young kids, and they're our kids. We're responsible to lead them down the right road."

Eddy Curry has already been much discussed as a key to the Knicks' future.

Against the Nets on Saturday, in his fifth game since the 2007-2008 season, he didn't blow anybody away. He still got great post position -- he's among the best in the NBA at that. He had some looks. But time and again he couldn't catch the pass, his teammates couldn't get it to him, or his shots went awry.

At one point his teammates raced ahead and drew a foul. Curry, at a slow walk, trailed the play so severely he barely arrived in time to line up for the free throw.

He looked ... "Like he hadn't played for two years?" quipped coach Mike D'Antoni after the game. But he said it with a smile, and right now the relationship between the Knicks and Curry is a happy one.

"We're still learning each other," confirmed Curry. "I've only practiced with them maybe five times. In a sense, I'm like a new player here. And at the same time we're still trying to win games. I'm not trying to disrupt them. I'm adjusting to it. But I think it's only a matter of time before I'm able to dominate this game."

"The team will improve on getting him the ball where he needs it," adds D'Antoni, "and he'll improve with his footwork and feel more comfortable. We'll both  have days like this and it'll be a while. But he's giving us something that we need and lifting up our spirits."

Consider that last point. Curry -- the poster child of the big, bad contracts that Isiah Thomas doled out in condemning the Knicks to long-term mediocrity -- is an inspration. The player who has endured just about everything anyone could imagine, and could well have soured on life, is flashing smiles.

On the court through his career he has been out of shape, out of sync, and sometimes a laughingstock. Off the court, the stories have been nightmarish, with murders in his family, lawsuits, and accusations. No one will ever accuse Curry of having had a smooth ride, and as much as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett may be the poster children for players coming straight from high school to NBA success, Curry -- despite big earnings -- has been a cautionary tale.

And yet, he has reached a point where he's a ray of light in the locker room of the franchise that has been called the most valuable in the NBA.

"Kind of like a new person coming around," says Curry of the mood since he returned to the team. "Everybody's just kind of revitalized. I love the energy in the locker room and on the court."

On Sunday, he'll play in Madison Square Garden for the first time since March 2008, when Thomas was still coach.

"Definitely fun to play my first game in the Garden since I don't know when,'" he says. "I was scared that it wouldn't happen here. ... Definitely looking forward to it. Hopefully they'll accept me. But they don't have a choice. I'll be there!"

Scheduled to be showing support for Curry in the face of Garden critics on Sunday -- and sitting courtside at the Izod Center on Saturday -- was Eddy Curry's "uncle" and noted NBA insider William Wesley. As a trusted advisor of a long list of players, including Curry, LeBron James, and Allen Iverson, Wesley has the potential to be a major figure as Donnie Walsh works to bring the Knicks back to respectability.

Wesley has already been a central figure in Curry's recent weight loss and rejuvenation.

Wesley very seldom talks to reporters on the record, but made an exception, speaking from his courtside seat at halftime of the Knicks' win at New Jersey:

Seeing Eddy Curry out there obviously means a lot for the Knicks. But also for you. Why?
Because of his personal struggle to get back to where he once was. There's a lot of people that doubt that he can get back to his form. He's trying. He's trying. This is just another step. The bar is being raised in each game.

Do you like his chances?
I like his chances.

These two teams we're watching, they're both banking on getting much better through free agency. If you could give them advice on how to succeed in attracting a premium free agent this summer, what would you say?
I'm not going to answer that question, because I think it's a set-up question. I'm here to talk about Eddy Curry, and to support Eddy Curry.

Tell me about your summer with Eddy Curry. What did you actually do?
We did two-a-days. He worked out. He ate right. Chris Douglas-Roberts came in and supported him -- Chris is from Detroit, so he came in and supported him. There's a lot of guys that wanted to come in to support Eddy through this process. J.R. Smith came in and spent some time with him. It was really great to see people coming and rallying around Eddy's family. A lot of people just wanted him to be in the right situation.

The stories about Eddy's situation have been terrible. There have been murders. There have been weird accusations. Just about everything bad you can imagine ... Very serious stuff. As someone who knows him better, it must kind of kill you to see Eddy Curry be the butt of jokes.
Yeah, but I've seen that my whole life with these young kids. Some of them get held to different standards. But at the end of the day, we have to remember that these are still young kids, and they're our kids. We're responsible to lead them down the right road. So if they hit a bump in the road, we should help them.

What do you say to people who make fun of him?
You're wasting your breath to talk to them. They're called haters. Their thought process isn't going to alter. You spend too much energy trying to convince them.

Is the perfect scenario for him to be a long-term Knick? Or would it be better for him to get a fresh start?
No, with Eddy, I think the best place for him is to be a New York Knick. People have to remember, the Knicks took a chance on Eddy when nobody else did. He hasn't forgotten that. Donnie Walsh has bent over backwards for Eddy to be successful. Knowing Eddy, Eddy's not going to take that lightly. He understands the commitment from Donnie Walsh and the New York Knicks organization.

So, Eddy's playing 11 minutes in Indiana, Donnie Walsh said in the papers, played a role in the Knicks' decision not to sign Allen Iverson.
I don't know anything about that.

Donnie talked to the media yesterday, and said basically that there were enough good signs from the young Knicks that they didn't want to alter the structure of the team. And he specifically mentioned Eddy's performance as part of that.
I don't know.

Sounds like the kind of thing you're talking about, though, with a big Knick commitment to Eddy Curry.
I guess! I don't know. I wasn't privy to the information.

Eddy spent the summer with your trainer and with you, and then he came to training camp and was immediately injured and the Knicks didn't seem to think he was in shape.
I don't want to comment on that. But I'll say that he had to start somewhere. And he started it in Detroit, Michigan.

And you're happy with where he is now?
Yeah.