Ben Wallace wasn’t the only big-name guest attending Knicks practice Thursday.
John Calipari, who coached current Knicks Julius Randle and Kevin Knox at Kentucky, spent the day seated with president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry during the team’s session in Tarrytown.
“I’m taking advantage of that. We don’t have him here for long. But to have a guy like that with that kind of brain and understanding of the game, it’s good to talk ideas with,” coach David Fizdale said. “[Calipari has] very good knowledge of two of our players. We invited him to camp and he couldn’t make it to camp, but he said, don’t you worry, I’m going to come visit you guys when I come to New York. Sure enough, he lived up to his word.”
Knox was limited in practice due to a calf injury, but Randle admitted he got “a little juice” from having Coach Cal in town, saying his time with the Kentucky Wildcats was “the start of it all for me.”
Randle played one season at Kentucky, averaging 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in 40 appearances. After the Wildcats lost in the 2014 NCCA title game to UConn, Randle became the seventh-overall pick in the draft by the Lakers.
Asked what he learned most from Calipari, Randle said, “One of the bigger things is accountability. I think that’s helped me not only in the NBA, but in life as well. Just be accountable for my actions, what I go out there and do. The results that you want you’re responsible for. You can’t put that on anybody else. You got to go out there and be accountable. That’s one of the bigger things I learned.”
He also called Calipari “the best in the business” and doesn’t think the former Nets coach ever plans to return to the NBA.
“Listen man, he has a lifetime deal at Kentucky, bro. He is set up,” Randle said. “You go to Lexington, Kentucky, and he’s a king out there. So I don’t blame him for not wanting to leave, either.”
Dennis Smith Jr. (back) is progressing but is listed as doubtful to play Friday against the Wizards. Knox (calf) was limited in practice, and the Knicks said he’s questionable, though Fizdale made it sound like he isn’t likely to dress.
“Kevin didn’t go today. He’s still out. I don’t think it’s anything major, I just think the trainers really want to take their time and make sure he’s healed up before he really tries it out,” Fizdale said. “[Smith] is good. He hit today. Had more contact today, so that was a really good sign. … We’ll see how his body reacts to it. Hopefully that’s a positive reaction.”
Bobby Portis (ribs) returned to full practice and is probable, and Wayne Ellington (illness) also is questionable. Damyean Dotson (shoulder), Reggie Bullock (cervical disc), Amir Hinton (groin) and Kenny Wooten (ankle) remain out.