New Knick under the microscope
Knicks' top pick Balkman says he's not concerned about his critics
By Ryan Chatelain
amNewYork Staff Writer
August 15, 2006
Add Renaldo Balkman to the rather large list of those floored when the Knicks selected him with the 20th pick in June's NBA draft.
Even more floored -- literally -- was the plate of food he was eating at a draft-night get-together in his hometown of Tampa, Fla.: Balkman dropped the plate when his name was called.
"Very surprised," Balkman said. "But I never doubted myself."
The now infamous Balkman pick provided even more fodder for the media and fans, who largely already blamed Isiah Thomas for turning the Knicks into more of a punchline than a championship contender as team president.
By the time the Knicks were on the draft clock, UConn point guard Marcus Williams, projected to be a lottery pick, was still on the board and undoubtedly would have been a far more popular choice. Williams was snatched up two spots later by the Nets.
Balkman, meanwhile, was thought to be a late second-round pick at best. He started a little more than half South Carolina's games -- 22 of 38 -- last season and averaged just 25.7 minutes and 9.6 points per contest.
No fault of his own, Balkman will now join the Knicks as one of the team's most closely watched players. Fans and reporters will be curious to see if he lives up to the comparisons Thomas made of him to Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest -- for their intensity and defensive skills, presumably not their antics -- or whether Thomas, who takes over as Knicks coach this season, was indeed out of his gourd, as they initially suspected.
But Balkman, who was born on Staten Island and lived there until he was 2, says he refuses to let the scrutiny get to him. He says he'll focus solely on taking care of business on the court.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," he said. "I don't have to go out there and prove to nobody that I'm a player. I know I can play."