Travis Knight Earns Some Praise
October 20, 1997
Travis Knight preferred to be interviewed while sitting down, and that was understandable since the Celtics center had just finished another lengthy basic training session at Camp Pitino.
On the afternoon following the team's fourth consecutive exhibition loss - a 118-96 shellacking in Green Bay, Wis., at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks - Knight and his teammates had just been put through a three-hour practice at Brandeis University.
"We got a lot done today, but we've still got a ways to go," said Knight, who had 16 points, eight rebounds, a steal, and a blocked shot against Milwaukee and earned some praise from coach Rick Pitino, who didn't find much else to be happy about after Saturday night's blowout.
"It was a debacle," said Pitino. "Our halfcourt defense is extremely soft and we've got to toughen that up because everybody is abusing us one-on-one. Teams are shooting way too high a percentage against us." The Bucks were 44 of 72. "Our defense is not at an NBA level right now. We've got young players who don't defend at this level right now.
"I've never had a team only force 10 turnovers in a game. I've never had a team have 14 assists in a game," he added. "But you've got to gut it out while your young players are learning.
"Our biggest problem is we get fatigued from this trapping style and we lose concentration of our offenses and our defenses and we break down, and that's true of every team I've had.
"Until they get over the fatigue element and not break down, they're going to look disorganized."
And so instead of a day off or an optional practice yesterday, the Celtics got back down to business, preparing for tomorrow night's exhibition in Orlando, Fla., one they will play without swingman Bruce Bowen, who suffered a concussion when he hit the floor against the Bucks. Bowen, who was scheduled to be hospitalized overnight for observation, probably will make the trip to Orlando, but is doubtful for game action.
"We had a good, hard practice today and we got a lot better," said Pitino, whose pre-practice message was that he's had assistant coaches who needed four months to learn the system, so don't think that as players you're going to learn it in 2 1/2 weeks.
"I said that there are nights like Saturday that are going to happen and that we've got to work through it and not get disorganized or disappointed," he said.
Playing defense at the NBA level is the biggest task facing Pitino's younger players. "They're getting abused by backup players in the NBA, because they didn't have their junior or senior years of college to even get experience at that level," said Pitino in direct reference to players like Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer.
In fact, the coach would just as soon forgo the rest of the exhibition season - which he can't, of course - and just work with his players on the practice court.
"I wish we could do what we did today, because guys right now are getting too disappointed with losses. I'd rather have the focus on learning and teaching," he said.
For Knight and Co., it'll be more on-the-job training as the exhibition schedule winds down this week.
"Everybody's working hard and trying hard, which is important," said the former UConn Husky and Los Angeles Laker, who acknowledged that with so many new faces, it's difficult to pick up an overall system, as well as the nuances of each individual's game.
"Most of the time, an NBA team will return eight or so guys and break in four or so new ones, but that's the opposite here," said Knight, who has the added pressure of being one of the focal points of his team's offense for the first time in his college or pro career.
"This team needs everybody to score, so I've got to get out of the mentality of being a role player who rebounds and shoots layups when I'm open," he said.
"But that's one of the big reasons I came here - to get the opportunity to be as good as I can be and develop."
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