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MONROE: McDyess, Big Apple a perfect match

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Mike Monroe

 
   
 

NEW YORK

met the New York media for the first time as a Knick on Friday afternoon here at Madison Square Garden. It wasn't long before one reporter insisted on informing him that when the draft night trade that brought him from Denver to New York was announced, it was met by a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance at The Garden. "I wasn't surprised," McDyess said, his million-dollar smile slowly starting to spread across his face. "It's New York. Everyone gets booed. "There's not too many people here who know the way they should. But I hope to show them." Indeed, it seems everyone gets booed in New York at one time or another, but McDyess has a chance to become an exception to the rule. fans disgusted with the team's direction the last few years and embarrassed by the team's failure to make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference last season now have reason to believe their team not only can return to the postseason but also has a chance to advance past the first round. McDyess is a mega-talented warrior whose only real weakness has been a passive personality that sometimes translates to a willingness to defer to less talented teammates. But ask Rudy Tomjanovich what he thinks of McDyess, who bailed out Team USA in the semifinal game of the last Olympics against Lithuania. McDyess willed his way to a rebound of a missed free throw by in the final minute of that game, snatching it away from a Lithuanian opponent who had inside position, then putting it back for a basket that turned out to be the game winner. "I love the guy," Tomjanovich said. "I can't say enough good things about him." Winning that gold medal in Sydney is the only truly good thing that has happened to McDyess since he turned pro seven years ago. He's been to the playoffs only once, during his time in Phoenix. He returned to the as a free agent one year after they traded him to the , a move most experts thought he was nuts to make. Now he agrees with those who questioned his sanity when he came back to Denver in 1999. "(All the losing) was tough to swallow," McDyess said. "I've been there six years, with all these promises I'd be in the playoffs soon. It never came, so I had to weigh my options." The potential deal breaker to Wednesday's trade was the opt-out clause in McDyess' contract, a clause he could have exercised at the end of the 2002-03 season. The weren't going to make the trade unless McDyess agreed to waive the opt-out. The presumption on draft night was that a self-described "country boy" couldn't see himself fitting in The Big Apple. Nothing, McDyess said, could be further from the truth. Yes, it's going to be hard learning to navigate his way around Manhattan, but he said he plans to live in suburban Westchester, where most of his new teammates reside, and besides, he said he loves New York. "I always come here in the summertime with my some of friends," he said. His opening comment at the press conference where he met the toughest media corps in the league was all about how playing in New York was a "dream come true." "It's the best sports city in the world," McDyess said, and what you need to know about that statement is that there is no guile to the nicest young man I've encountered in all my years covering the league. If he said it, he meant it. "I'm a country boy," he said, "but I think I can adapt to anything." McDyess was tossed a chance to rip his former team and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, but it's not in his nature. "Kiki was put in a bad situation," he said, stating a truth in which he played a big part by refusing last season to sign an extension that would have negated his opt-out clause. "He had to take some steps back to go forward in the future." Indeed, I believe Vandeweghe had no choice but to do what he did, and I think he optimized the ' return value when he was able to get Nene Hilario as part of the deal. Denver clearly is in yet another rebuilding phase, but with Vandeweghe it looks like it finally has the right architect. The only reluctance McDyess had in agreeing to waive the opt-out clause so the trade could be made was knowing he would have to say good-bye to some of the great friends he had made in Denver, chief among them media relations director Tommy Sheppard, who shed tears when the deal was finalized. I've seen McDyess shed tears on more than a few occasions, too, mostly after tough losses in Denver. It is no sign of weakness. Rather, it is the clearest of indications about how much he cares about winning. In New York, winning is the only thing that matters. This is a perfect match. Mike Monroe can be reached at his e-mail address, mmonroe@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Nuggets, Nets, Knicks, Antonio McDyess, Jason Kidd

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