Next week the New York Knicks will play in London for the NBA London Game 2019 against the Washington Wizards. What are you expecting from the game and the atmosphere from the European fans who are so passionate about the NBA?
LK: “We’re very excited for the opportunity. I already know how passionate the fans are from across the world, especially in London, so we’re excited to be able to come over and play a game for them so they can experience it live and first hand. It’s definitely a unique experience that is happening more and more often now with the league. But I think it’s a great opportunity to have a very competitive game but to also be able to share the game with others too who often don’t have a chance to see it live.”
What do you know about Europe and what kind of attendance you can expect in London? Your father played twice in Italy, what has he been telling you about his experience, the atmosphere here and the basketball culture?
LK: “When I was in college, I played in a world tour across Italy and Greece. My dad also played in Italy for Siena and Reggio Calabria I believe and I actually have several friends too who play oversees. I definitely know the EuroCup basketball, it has a different level of passion and the fandom there is nothing short of incredible. Obviously it’s very tied to soccer culture. I personally know how passionate the fans are so we’re expecting a similar kind of thing where people who haven’t really been able to express their love of NBA basketball now have a chance to express that. I’m expecting a pretty passionate atmosphere. My father has talked about it and he said some of the crazy atmosphere in a positive way – is just high energy. So we’re expecting that especially given that NBA basketball over in England doesn’t happen all too often so the expectations and passion aren’t going to rest up in that situation.”
Have you been to London before and is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to doing when you come over to London or anything with your teammates in particular?
LK: “I haven’t been to London before but I actually have a good friend who’s from England. I think we’re staying down by the section of the London Eye, Big Ben and the more signature places. I really hope to just explore as much as I can whilst still being ready and prepared for the game. I don’t know if there’s anything in particular other than the main tourist destinations that I want to see. I know in past years, some teams have been able to go to an actual EPL game which I thought would be awesome but we won’t be there during a time like that. Honestly just being able to experience the culture and just kind of get a feel for the city is something that I’m excited to do. It’s always cool to go to a new place and it’s cool that the NBA can provide these kind of opportunities.”
If you weren’t playing in London, would there be any other city in Europe that you would love to play in, and if so, which city would that be and who would you love to play against?
LK: “That’s a pretty interesting question. Probably somewhere that I haven’t really been to before. In terms of really good atmospheres and places with incredible basketball, Spain’s obviously great, France and Germany too. The best places I’ve played in are actually Italy and Greece. With the exception of those, I would love to play anywhere over there. Every city and country has its own unique thing and I hope to visit all of them so I can’t really pinpoint a specific city. I think it would be pretty cool but maybe also a little unfair if we played against a team with a native of the country. Playing Dallas in somewhere in Germany, Frank in our team is from France and a couple of guys on Charlotte are from France. I think playing a team like that in one of the countries where they have a native or a citizen of that country would be something pretty unique.”
You’re a rookie this season, how is playing in a regular team helping your growth? Are all these losses helping the growth of the team or is this slowing down the process?
LK: “That’s part of every type of growth. A necessary part of improving is to have a challenge and being able to suffer a little bit and being able to take it on the chin and keep moving forward. There really is no success without failure before. I think it’s something that you have to be able to accept and not try to just brush off but at the same time you’ve got to be able to learn from it and respond to it maturely. That’s something that’s difficult but it requires doing. It requires a delicate line of being able to be hard on yourself and being able to take lessons from it and not try to diminish the fact that you’re losing but at the same time keeping your head up and keeping a consistent work out without it changing your approach to the game. It’s not something that’s enjoyable at all but I think it’s something that’s necessary.”
Do you feel as a young player that playing for a particular franchise, in the world’s most famous arena – The Knicks – 45 years without the title, do you feel some extra pressure from the eyes of the world around you. Do you feel it’s a little different than playing for the other franchises?
LK: “I definitely think there’s a different perceived and outside expectations that are put on us because of being in the Knicks and being in New York. But personally in terms of, for the team and for my own personal development, I feel I put plenty of pressure on myself, and we put it on each other. The outside and perceived expectations aren’t anything really to worry about because I know it can fluctuate and you have to have a consistent pressure on yourself to perform and improve. I feel like that’s always been the case with me. No matter how hard someone else is being on me or if they think I’m doing well, I try not to let that influence me as much as I’m trying to improve myself, I’m trying to compete to win. There’s a consistent public pressure that is put on the team but I think a part of my job as players is to not be changed by that and have our own internal decisions and ambitions that shouldn’t really change based on public perceptions.”
You’ve faced the Wizards twice already this season, from your perspective who do you see as their key players next Thursday and what do you have to do to stop them from completing the job and getting a third win, in London?
LK: “I think without Wall, Bradley Beal is definitely their primary guy and someone who is capable of being really explosive. Obviously he’s been an All-Star and he’s a great player in this league so it really starts with him. They’ve got plenty of guys that can do damage, I think he’s definitely the primary top target in terms of someone that can really takeover and kind of change the game. When it comes to those type of guys in this league it has to be a full team defensive effort. It’s up to all of us and our defensive skills to try to stop a guy like that.”
Being one of the best players in your university, unfortunately you were not drafted in 2017. Before you played in the summer league, was there an option for you playing in Europe this season?
LK: “Although I wasn’t drafted, in and out of the draft I received some training camp invites and eventually a two-way contract with the Knicks. But before the draft, we kind of talked about that in terms of what the plan looking forward is. The original goal definitely was to try to make it to the NBA and whether that might be a training camp-type invitation or something like that. But I never really ruled playing overseas, playing in Europe somewhere or anything like that, out of the options because I mean I definitely wanted to play in the NBA but I also loved playing basketball and so wherever I can best pursue that at the highest level that I can – that was what I wanted to do. It’s something that I didn’t rule out at the time and throughout my career, I don’t think that I’d ever rule it out. I think I definitely want to play at the NBA, I feel like that’s the best league in the world and that’s where I want to be but I definitely hold a lot of the European basketball in high regards because I know a good amount of guys that play over there and they play an extremely high level of basketball. It was something that going down the list of what my thoughts and plans were, it was something that we talked about but my goal first and foremost was to play in the NBA and so that’s kind of how that situation sort of worked itself out.”