The Knicks are in the market for a backup point guard now that Jason Kidd rode off into the sunset and Pablo Prigioni is still weighing his options, so it made sense to host a couple of lead guards at Wednesday’s predraft workouts.
Among the six invitees to the team’s first predraft workout of the offseason were Isaiah Canaan of Murray State and Brandon Triche of Syracuse. Canaan is an undersized point guard who is barely 6-foot-1 and made his fame at the tiny Ohio Valley Conference school in Kentucky, while Triche has made numerous appearances at Madison Square Garden for old Big East matchups.
But despite their different backgrounds, neither lack in confidence in thinking they’d be the right candidate for the Knicks’ No. 24 pick.
“I’m very confident,” said Canaan, when asked if he thinks he can have an immediate impact like his friend, the reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers. “Once people really see me, because they probably didn’t see me play where I’m located at and the team I played for, I can change a lot of people’s minds. At the end of the day, they’ll realize that I am a first-round type of player.”
The 6-foot-4 Triche, who shot 42 percent and averaged 13.6 points last season for Syracuse, said he felt as if he really impressed Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and his staff with his improved shooting during the workout.
“I think this was my best workout so far. I was able to shoot the 3-point shot the best out of the four places I’ve been,” said Triche, adding that his age (22) will serve him well under Woodson because of the coach’s thirst for ready-made rookies. “I have a lot of experience but [there’s] still things to prove, mostly to myself. ... I want to show my true abilities [because] I think I’ll be a better pro than college player.”
Canaan also acknowledged he had room for growth, but added he can definitely be of service to Woodson in the rotation — despite the coach rarely trusting first-year players. It took Woodson almost half the season to really see the value of Chris Copeland, and that was even with Copeland being an experienced professional player from overseas.
The former Murray State star was fully aware of Woodson’s staunch — often stubborn — support of veterans, but the scorer said he can offer so much more to the Knicks because of his versatility, maturity and talents.
“A lot of people think I’m just a scoring guard, but I do whatever I’m asked to do. At Murray State I was forced to score the basketball in order for us to win,” said Canaan. “But if I have other guys around me to score the basketball, I have no problem doing that [passing]. I’m all about winning.”
He went on to further espouse the virtues of his all-around game, particularly his belief that he can help space the floor — a problem which plagued the Knicks in their second-round defeat by the Pacers.
“That’s one of the aspects of my game that separates me because I can shoot the basketball pretty good, can create off the dribble and find the open man. I can go out there and extend [the defense] so teams can’t key on certain guys, because I’ll be on the wings and it’ll just free up guys,” said Canaan. “When you’re playing alongside someone like Carmelo [Anthony], you’ve got to draw a lot of attention away from him so teams can’t key on him. And with me, you have a guy who can shoot it just as well as he can. ... He’ll have more opportunities to score [one-on-one], because if he passed it to me, I’ve been blessed to be able to knock down shots.
“My abilities to create and knock down shots will allow other key players who are paid a lot of money to score the basketball. I’m a winner, so whatever I have to do I’ll do.”
The one thing the incoming rookie won’t have to do is find confidence, because he feels he can make a mark in this league quickly since today’s rules cater toward making it easier for smaller guards like himself, Lillard and Chris Paul to excel.
Canaan, who had never been to New York prior to his workout, said if he’s “blessed to play in the big city like here” he’ll soak up the entire experience and cherish whatever Raymond Felton says and does while also doing everything he can to push the veteran.
“If I get that opportunity it’ll feel good, especially knowing that Jason Kidd hung up his shoes. It’d be a great opportunity to showcase that I can come right in and play if they need me to do that,” said Canaan. “I’ll push whoever every day in practice like we’re competing for a spot. That’s the one thing about me [that] I’m not going to back down to nobody out there. They put their clothes on just like me. I’m about competing and going out there and doing what I can to win.”
Knicks notes ...
» Joining Canaan and Triche were forwards DeShaun Thomas of Ohio State, Murphy Holloway of Ole Miss, A.J. Matthews of Division-III Farmingdale State and Norvel Pelle, who once committed to St. John’s after the 2011 season, but wasn’t cleared academically to play by the NCAA, and eventually committed to Iona for this past season, only to never make it on campus or officially play in a game.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.