Willis Reed RumorsAll NBA Players
They are not doctors, don’t play ones on TV, but two of the greatest Knicks ever, “The Captain” Willis Reed and Walt “Clyde” Frazier, know something about injuries and rehab. Though both said Saturday they cannot speak to the extent of Carmelo Anthony’s bum knee, both were in agreement on one point if surgery is needed: Do it now. “I don’t know how severe it is, but if he’s going to need an operation, he should have it now,” Frazier said while signing autographs at a Steiner Sports Pop Up Shop for All-Star Weekend in Midtown. “No need in hanging around or messing around. Just have it and have that much more time to recuperate.”
Willis Reed heard the phone ring. And ring. And ring some more. Inquiring minds wanted to know his take on the Knicks’ pursuit of Phil Jackson for the front office. So they called. And called. Reed ignored them all in his Louisiana home. “I’m not a betting man,” the Knicks legendary and Hall of Fame center said Saturday, “but I would not have bet on it. I just didn’t believe we were going to get him. I never thought it was going to happen. I just thought somehow, someway, through his relationships with the Lakers and with Jeanie [Buss] that Phil Jackson would end up in the Lakers organization. “I just think for us, the Knicks, we won the lottery.”
Jot Down magazine interview: Joe Arlauckas on Bill Russell when he was the Sacramento Kings head coach: “Bill Russell was a guy who didn’t have any (expletive) clue about coaching. He was a legend, but come on man… he was lucky he had assistant Willis Reed. At the end they gave him a front office job because he had no idea. The first day he came to practice, he sat on the stands and fell asleep. Two hours later he woke up and said to Willis: ‘Hey, it’s 11.30. Quick, wrap up practice, I have to meet a friend to play golf’. This is heavy stuff.”
Willis Reed on the notion that Drazen Petrovic, a free agent when he passed, would leave the NBA: “Europe wasn’t the place for him,” Reed said. “My sense was he wanted to play at least four more years in the NBA, then probably retire (back home). He could have done anything as a player. But the level of basketball, once you play at this level, then you’re taking a step back if you go anywhere else.”
Jimmy Wergeles, the Knicks’ first and longtime public relations boss, MSG Network’s first p.r. director and a Navy veteran of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, died, Friday, at 90. Wergeles began with the Knicks on day one, in 1946, and retired from the Garden in 1985. He became particularly close with Willis Reed, who yesterday called Wergeles, “My go-to man, and one of my best friends.”
Carmelo Anthony got an endorsement as a winner from the most notable winner in Knicks history as two-time champ Willis Reed spoke up for him. In New York to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the last championship team, Reed was asked if he was surprised the franchise hadn’t won since. He started there and veered to Melo. “Well, I’m not a betting man. I mean, I’m really not a betting man,” Reed said. “But I’ll tell you, I would have bet $100 on that, I would have taken $100 of that. Right after I got out they get Patrick, and they came that close. I mean, they were there, they had it done. I thought they had it done, and they didn’t do it. You know, that’s unusual. I think this has always been a very good franchise. I think the fans have always been very loyal. It’s always been a popular team around the league, and I think it’ll stay that way.
“They’ve got maturity, they’ve got veterans, guys who played on championship teams and been in the league a long time,” Reed said. He said he has particularly enjoyed watching Amar’e Stoudemire come back healthy and thinks Carmelo Anthony has a chance at being named the MVP this season. “I’ve been waiting a long time, a long time,” Reed said of another Knicks title. “When I talk to other guys from back then, I mean, I would have never thought . “If somebody would have said to me the Knicks would not win another championship for another 40 years, you want to bet that? I would have bet a thousand dollars and I’m not a betting man.”
Reed, 70, retired after serving as the Nets’ general manager for eight years and the Hornets’ vice president of basketball operations from 2004-07. He said he subscribes to NBA League Pass at home in Ruston, La., and often watches the Knicks — and now gets to finally openly root as a true fan. And he said he loves what Chandler has brought them, not only rebounding but as a team leader. “He’s a great team player, a great teammate,” said Reed, who brought Chandler to New Orleans in a trade in 2006. “Seeing him every day, he’s got a smile on his face, he talks to people and he’s enthusiastic. He’s the type of guy, if he’s on the bench or not playing well, he’s still enthusiastic for the others. And I think that rubs off on players because there’s always going to be some guys who are never happy.”
So does Willis Reed think it was a Willis Reed moment? “It qualifies because they won the game, I guess,’’ Reed said of the win that gave the Heat a 3-1 Finals lead. “That’s the most important thing. The only difference is (the Heat) still got to win one more (for the title). … I thought it was gutsy on (James’) part. He surely was a gamer.’’
That NBA player was LeBron James on Tuesday night. The Heat superstar went down in the fourth quarter with leg cramps. At first, he was able to stay in the game, hitting a one-handed bank shot before nailing a crucial 3-pointer minutes later. It wasn’t exactly a Willis Reed moment, but given that he’s the biggest basketball star on the planet, LeBron was receiving a healthy amount of praise for playing through the pain. But color some NHL players unimpressed.
I asked Hall of Famer Willis Reed about Amar’e Stoudemire’s plight and here’s what he said: “It’s an unfortunate situation. I feel sorry for him. I don’t think anybody feels worse about it than he does. It happens. If they had been leading in the series and then he got hurt and they lost the series, then it would have been a lot more difficult for him. But they’re in a tough situation.’’
The Knicks will now enter from one end of the Garden — apart from their opponents — by passing through a glass enclosure that will allow some lower-bowl fans with special club membership to view them as they make their way to the court. “Maybe they like the idea of the fans’ having the chance to cheer the players as they run across the court,” Reed said in a telephone interview from his home in Grambling, La. “Buildings, they’re always going to get changed. In New York, it’s not like you can go out and build a new one, and when you remodel something it’s hard to keep it the same.”
Willis Reed had heard a few weeks ago that the Madison Square Garden tunnel he made famous in 1970 by merely walking through it was gone. He isn’t mad, or in mourning. “As long as they keep all the retired numbers up there — that’s what people notice when they walk in,” he said. “That’s good enough for me.” The retired jerseys of hallowed Knicks, including Reed’s No. 19, will hang as usual under the Garden’s classic dropped ceiling for the team’s season opener Sunday against the Boston Celtics. But the tunnel that the Knicks and the Rangers have emerged from for decades, along with their opposition, has been replaced in the partly renovated arena by seats for affluent fans.
Those familiar with the career of the Knicks legend Willis Reed would not be surprised by his recent take on the N.B.A. lockout and the cancellation of early-season games. “My primary worry is that there are so many people beyond the owners and players connected to the league,” he said. “These people depend on it for their livelihood and, man, these are tough times for them not to have work.”
You can bet John Stockton and Jerry Sloan will be at the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony next month when Karl Malone and the original Dream Team are among the inductees. Surprisingly, though, neither of them will be presenting The Mailman on his big night. Per Malone’s request, that honor has been bestowed upon a fellow Louisiana legend. “Willis Reed is presenting me at the Hall of Fame, which I think is pretty cool,” Malone said Friday night while visiting with Utah media at his auto dealership.