I’m coming home. I’m coming home. Tell the world I’m coming home.
These lyrics are forever etched in Knicks’ fans memories after the numerous commercial plugs on the MSG Network for the return of Carmelo Anthony to New York. What you don’t know is that the ad was also intended – whether knowingly or not – for another guy who came over in that trade. I’m talking about Staten Island-native and 2006 Knicks draftee Renaldo Balkman.
Forever known as the guy taken right before Rajon Rondo, Balkman came into this league with hopes of reinvigorating the Knicks’ defense. After a successful rookie campaign with New York – one in which he displayed good hustle, defensive tenacity and the beginnings of becoming a fan favorite – Balkman struggled in his sophomore year, taking a hit in almost every major statistical category. He was subsequently traded to Denver where he became a contributor off the bench, but eventually had his minutes reduced and had to deal with a bout of injuries last season.
Now back for his second stint with New York, Balkman is motivated to get into the rotation and bring back that toughness and energy Knicks fans are yearning for. Recently, we got up with Renaldo to talk about the Knicks’ playoff chances, their biggest competition in the East and adjusting to the D’Antoni system.
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Dime: First of all, welcome back to New York. How does it feel to be back in the city you were drafted?
Renaldo Balkman: Man, it’s the Mecca of basketball. It’s great. Everything about it. It’s the city that never sleeps. Everywhere your turn there’s something to do.
Dime: How has the transition been for you?
RB: It’s been a little tough since I wasn’t playing for quite a while in Denver. Being thrown in there with the Knicks you lose your touch… I think I lost a bit of it. I think I’m trying to get my game ready; I want to play but I haven’t played for a long time. So I’m just trying get back in the rhythm.
Dime: What have you been working on to get those minutes?
RB: I’ve been coming early and staying late, working hard on fundamentals, keeping everything tight, working on defense, working on my jump shot. D’Antoni wants me to shoot the ball more, so I’ve been working hard about getting that right.
Dime: How is it coming into the D’Antoni high-octane offense?
RB: It’s been kind of hard to transition, even coming from Denver’s system. With D’Antoni, you just have work on everything, but I still get to show my defensive skills and help my teammates out that way. You know, by covering guys and helping out.
Dime: Do you feel you will make a significant contribution to this team?
RB: I think so. When I get my chance at it I think I can be a real part of the team. Since I haven’t played in so long, I don’t want to tear anything and be out for the rest of the year, so I have to take it step by step and ease into it.
Dime: What’s the locker room environment like right now with all the new additions?
RB: Everything is positive. Everyone’s excited about the potential for playoffs and trying to get that extra seed. We can be a five, four or maybe even a three seed if we try hard. We don’t want to be in a situation where we drop to an eight seed. Everyone’s positive and knows their roles.
Dime: What’s it like hearing the Knicks and postseason in the same sentence?
RB: We haven’t been to the playoffs in a long period of time and now we’re back in the playoff (picture), so it’s a new game. You could win 52 games and lose in the first round, so it depends who is the most focused.
Dime: Who is the biggest competition for you guys in the East?
RB: I’ve been playing on the West for so long, so it’s tough to call. They say the rivalry is back between us and Miami. The flames have been rekindled.
Dime: You guys have suffered some tough losses recently. How hard is it getting over them?
RB: My motto is, “You win as a team, you lose as a team.” If you’re going to lose by twenty or thirty, you have to go into the next game fresh. You can’t dwell on the losses or we’ll have a bad season. We have anger in us because we did lose some of those games.
Dime: What do you guys need to work on to get over this hump?
RB: We need to work on our transition game. We need to play hard and stop our man and we’ll win the game. We can get 25 from the big three (‘Melo, Amar’e and Chauncey) and that’s 75 points for us right there. We just need to stop them.
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