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GREENBURGH, NY, April 4, 2005 -- Some things you don’t often see at the end of Knicks practice: President, Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas and Knicks head coach Herb Williams working out hard and long with tremendous rookie talent Trevor Ariza. Head Trainer Mike Saunders wrapping an enormous ice pack around Tim Thomas’ left knee ON the practice floor (“The knee is the knee”, the inscrutable Thomas tossed an aside while walking off). Assistant Coach, Player Development Greg Brittenham sharing the finer points of free-throw shooting with Jermaine Jackson; Malik Rose in an avid side-line discussion with Assistant Coach Michael Malone. Assistants Mark Aguirre and Brendan Suhr dissecting the details of a particular post play -- with no players in the immediate vicinity.

Of course, you probably should expect some unusual things to occur toward the end of the season -- still, due to Thomas’ presence, Ariza’s workout got the lion’s share of attention. First it was free throws, next jump shots around the college arc from every conceivable angle. Then, with Coach Herb Williams joining in to rebound the ball -- and fellow young Knicks Michael Sweetney and Jackson watching intently from the sidelines -- the repeat of the same from NBA “three” range, both catch-and-shoot and off of a couple of dribbles.

Ariza’s form was dissected in great detail, with the position of the left elbow and the bending of both knees drawing particular attention from Thomas. “It’s real special to work with him,” Ariza smiled afterwards. “Not just because who he is -- you know, the President -- but because he’s Isiah Thomas. He usually does this with Jamal (Crawford) but, I guess, today was my turn. Sure, we worked on some details but, overall, his basic message to me was ‘be confident when shooting the ball.’”

Thomas finished the session with a 50-foot nothing-but-net straight into the ball-basket. “Is there a message in this for Trevor?” Williams pondered afterwards. “I don’t necessarily know about a special message but the one thing this organization wants to get across is that you always have to work on your craft. To be the best you can be you must stay after practice, both to work on what you do best and what you may not do so well. When you become better, you make the team better. All these guys, including Trevor, were superstars in high school, superstars in college, they did pretty much whatever they wanted to do on the floor. But in the NBA, you can’t do that. To be great at the higher level, you have to bring something extra to the table.”

“I actually feel I’ve developed a lot this season,” Ariza said. “My progress was pretty good. But all that does for me is it makes me want to do more.”
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