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Interview with Knicks rookie Cleanthony Early


By Tommy Rothman

Earlier this week, I reached out to Cleanthony Early, who was taken 34th overall out of Wichita State by the Knicks in this year’s NBA Draft.

Early, a 6-foot-8, 219 pound forward, has made a name for himself with his great athleticism, a dangerous 3-point shot, and his solid defense. Cleanthony helped lead Wichita State to the Final Four in 2013 and was a key member of this year’s squad, which went an undefeated 35-0 before losing in the 2nd round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Cleanthony was terrific in that final game against Kentucky, scoring 31 points on 12/17 shooting and pulling down 7 rebounds. Most projections had Cleanthony, 23, going in the mid-to-late first round, but New York managed to snatch him up in round 2 with one of the picks acquired in the Tyson Chandler deal.

Cleanthony, a Bronx native, was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for me. Check out what he had to say:

Tommy Rothman, New York Knicks Memes: How did you get started playing basketball? How did you fall in love with the game?

Cleanthony Early, New York Knicks: Started just watching my brother when I was real young and following after him. It then just escalated with the sport just being so easily accessed at all times, and from then on I played it so much… the interest in it just kept growing!

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Tommy: What was the entire draft experience like, from the combine, to the interviews, to the draft itself, to the moment you were drafted? How did you find out the Knicks were taking you? Did you get a call, or did you have to wait until your name was announced like everybody else?

Cleanthony: It was a great experience, everything you ever asked for. I was happy to be a part of it all. I got a call a couple of picks prior [to being drafted] so I kind of knew.

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Tommy: A lot of people expected you to be picked Early (insert pun here), but you fell to the Knicks at 34. How does it feel to be selected to your hometown team? Do you feel more motivated after falling in the draft to prove people wrong?

Cleanthony: It feels great, whatever team picked me up [at] 1 through 60 would of been a blessing. Not too many people get to live that moment of hearing your name called [on draft night] in general. Obviously the later you fall the more motivating it is for you… or at least me. I feel I have something to prove. I think I should of went earlier. But I didn’t. So therefore I have to make them remember the kid that was overlooked once again.

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Tommy: Do you think you are ready to handle the pressures of playing in Madison Square Garden, on the biggest stage in the NBA?

Cleanthony: Yes sir.

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Tommy: Who on the team have you gotten a chance to speak to so far?

Cleanthony: Tim, Swish, Shump, and Shane.

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Tommy: What is the best advice anybody has ever given you, as an athlete or as a person?

Cleanthony: Keep God first, keep working hard, and make good decisions.

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Tommy: How do you feel about working in a system created by Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, two established NBA champions?

Cleanthony: Blessed. Those are two people I got a chance to admire and observe as good and educated people at a real young age, honestly, and now I get to learn from them. [That] is the ultimate advantage on my side.

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Tommy: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Cleanthony: My Mom, and great people with a vision and work ethic to make what they believe in happen by the energy they put out into the world and into themselves. A lot of things motivate and inspire me on a daily basis.

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Tommy: What should we expect you to bring to the floor when you are on the court?

Cleanthony: A good basketball player giving his all to get those wins and hopefully a championship.

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Tommy: With the Las Vegas Summer League approaching, how excited are you to get on the floor as a Knick for the first time, even if it isn’t an official game?

Cleanthony: I’m excited just to be out there with the guys, going hard, learning the offense.

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Tommy: Do you have a nickname? “Earl The Pearl” is taken.

Cleanthony: (Laughs) Most people call me “Cle”.

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Tommy: What was your pregame routine in college? How about your postgame routine?

Cleanthony: I listen to music and say a prayer before the game and after. But I do that a lot regardless so I don’t know if that counts.

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Tommy: What advice do you have for young athletes out there?

Cleanthony: Keep God first, keep working hard and make good decisions. Watch who you keep around you, and the things you might say or do, because someone is always watching. Be smart.

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Tommy: What are your hobbies outside of basketball?

Cleanthony: I like to watch movies, listen to music, read here and there, just chill and relax.

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Tommy:  Bonus Question: Are you ready to get some serious fashion tips from Clyde Frazier?

Cleanthony: [Laughs} I’ll take it.

*End of Interview*

Thanks to Cleanthony for taking the time to answer these questions for us! You can follow Cleanthony on Twitter here and Instagram here

You can follow Knicks Memes on Twitter here and Instagram here

-Tommy Rothman

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Interview With Knicks Big Man Jeremy Tyler

By Tommy Rothman

Jeremy Tyler might not be a household name yet, but he certainly has the potential to become one. Tyler, who left high school early to pursue a career overseas instead of playing in the NCAA, was drafted with the 39th pick of the 2011 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. After seeing limited action in Golden State, Tyler joined the Knicks’ Summer League team. New York waived Tyler after he suffered a foot injury, but brought him back to their D-League team and added him to the NBA roster in January once his rehab was complete. In the past week, Tyler has become a part of Coach Mike Woodson’s rotation, and has showed off his impressive athleticism on both ends of the floor. Tyler is averaging 18.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes through his first 10 games as a Knick. I reached out to Jeremy through his media team a couple weeks ago, and he was kind enough to agree to do an online interview with New York Knicks Memes. Keep reading to see what Jeremy had to say about himself, his journey, his teammates, his coach’s smile, music, and his first month as a Knick.

Tommy Rothman, New York Knicks Memes: Hi, Mr. Tyler. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Your path to the NBA was a bit more complicated than the standard prep-to-college-to-pro journey. Even before making your NBA debut with the Warriors in 2011, you had already played in a professional setting. But the NBA and the bj league (in Japan) are two very different things. What was the most difficult part about the transition to the NBA?

Jeremy Tyler, New York Knicks: The pace of the game is a little faster here and [there are] more athletic players. And the seriousness of each game [is higher].

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Tommy: Have there ever been times where you have felt that having experienced professional basketball outside of the NBA has helped you handle the pressures and the spotlight of the NBA?

Jeremy: Yes, it definitely has, and it’s been really good taking the experiences I have over there and [using] them in everyday life here, and [it’s] helped me become a better person.

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Tommy: You landed a spot on the Knicks’ summer league roster and were very impressive. You earned yourself a contract and then, just when it seemed you were a lock to make the team, it was announced that you would miss several weeks with a foot injury. How did you respond to that mentally? What was it like rehabbing an injury while trying to fight for a roster spot, physically and emotionally?

Jeremy: It was hard at first but I learned the injury might have came to teach me patience. And with patience it taught me to use each setback as a comeback. I think because I had my head on straight and a good support system, I was able to get through it.

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Tommy: Immediately after the Knicks waived you, they expressed interest in bringing you back to their D-League team to give you a chance to prove yourself. You were very impressive in the D-League (your final  game with the Erie Bayhawks having been a 21 point, 15 rebound performance). The Knicks decided you’d earned a shot on the NBA roster, and you recently signed an NBA contract with the team. So after a half-year of uncertainty, you are finally a New York Knick. How did it feel when you finally got signed? How has your first month as a Knick been?

Jeremy: It felt great. It felt like I accomplished the first step of my big goal. With the first month being here, I found myself. I’ve been learning, getting in great shape and working on my mental and physical performance.

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Tommy: Playing in New York City is no small matter. Do you feel ready to handle the pressures of playing in the most famous arena and the largest media market in the NBA?

Jeremy: Yes, I am ready to accept any challenges that come my way. I am well-prepared for adversity and am excited.

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Tommy: There are a lot of fans who haven’t gotten much of a chance to see you play. Which part of your game do you think Knicks Fans should be most excited about? What should we expect from you on the court going forward? What do you try to bring to the table? In other words, who are you when you step on the floor?

Jeremy: My sense of urgency. I like to play at a high level energy wise. I am a very fun and outgoing player to watch whether on the court or supporting my team on the bench. On the court going forward, I’m going to [give] 110% every time and take advantage of any minutes I can get.

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Tommy: Which NBA players did you idolize growing up? Who did you try to model your game after?

Jeremy: Growing up I idolized Amar’e (Stoudemire) and Hakeem Olajuwon.

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Tommy:  You are playing with one of the game’s elite scorers in Carmelo Anthony, and a premier post defender in Tyson Chandler. You will be around veterans famed for their toughness, such as Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin. How much do you think you can learn from your new teammates as you try to develop as an NBA player?

Jeremy: I can learn a lot like I have been. They have been in the game a while and they help a lot everyday and I feed off their positive projections.

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Tommy: Eventually, we will get to know you as a player. But what do you want Knicks fans to learn about you now, as a person?

Jeremy: I am very family orientated and I’m extroverted and like it do a lot of things.

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Tommy:  Have you ever seen Mike Woodson smile? Be honest. It’s OK if you haven’t.

Jeremy: Yes. He smiles all the time. He’s a very happy and outgoing standup guy.

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Tommy:  Iman Shumpert and Metta World Peace have both dabbled in the rap game recently. Do you have what it takes when it comes to rap? Should one of your new teammates put you on a track?

Jeremy: Yes, I love music. I do music. Maybe one day we will all be on a track together. I can rap, but I prefer to sing and play the piano. I taught myself to play the piano while I was playing basketball in Japan.

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Tommy: What advice do you have for young basketball players?

Jeremy: Always play and always have fun. But know that if you want to accomplish something big, you have to put in the work. As a young player you have to put even more work than any of the older players.

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Tommy: What goals do you have for yourself as an NBA player?

Jeremy: To be an NBA All-Star and be an icon one day.

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Tommy: Last question: You have shown that you can comfortably play either position, but do you view yourself as a Power Forward, or a Center?

Jeremy: I can play either. I am both. Wherever they need me, I am ready.

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You can follow Jeremy on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

Special thanks to Jeremy and to his media manager, Leslie Strauss.

 

 

Knicks Memes Interview with “Friday Night Knicks Guy” Robert Randolph

By Tommy Rothman

 

 Robert Randolph is the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and was named as one of the “Greatest 100 Guitarists of All-Time” by Rolling Stone. Randolph is also a celebrity amongst Knicks fans. Randolph is a die-hard Knicks fan himself and has risen to fame in the Knicks community as the “Friday Night Knicks Guy” over the last few years. Every Friday Night on which there is a Knicks game televised on MSG, Randolph performs a game-tailored version of his song “Get There” (video above). While the song and the video are a nice, catchy part of the broadcast, Randolph has come under fire in the past due to allegations of him being a “curse”. Entering last season, the Knicks had had a losing record on Fridays for several years in a row, and every year since Randolph had joined the broadcast. Randolph promised he would do something about the curse, and he delivered; the Knicks went 10-6 on Fridays this past season. Earlier this week, I contacted  Randolph asking him if he would be interested in doing an online interview, and he kindly accepted. Here is what he had to say on the team, his career, the curse, and more:

Tommy (New York Knicks Memes): How did you get started in music? What made you decide you wanted to be a musician?

Robert Randolph (Family Band, Friday Night Knicks): I grew up in New Jersey playing music in church and in public schools, that’s where I had a chance to see and get involved in music.

Tommy: Aside from your business relationship with the Knicks, what is your backstory as a Knicks fan?

Randolph: I was born a Knicks fan, my father talked about Clyde Frazier and Willis Reed growing up. But I became a die-hard Knicks fan when Patrick Ewing and Mark Jackson got drafted. Mark Jackson was my favorite player growing up.

Tommy: How did “Friday Night Knicks” get started? Did you contact the Knicks or did they reach out to you?

Randolph: I have many fans that work for MSG, they used to come to a lot of my early shows without me knowing. In 2003, I met an employee named Sammy Steinlight, who had an idea when the Knicks were doing very [badly] in 06, 07 to create some sense of hope for Knicks fans. But apparently everyone started calling me “The Jinx”. [Laugh]

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Tommy: What is it like to be a part of the broadcast for the team you rooted for as a child?

Randolph: I love every minute of being part of the Knicks’ MSG family. I still get goose bumps every time I walk in the Garden.

Tommy: What is the strangest thing that has happened to you since you became “The Friday Night Knicks Guy” (aside from me asking you for this interview, of course)?

Randolph: Strangest thing [that] happens is when people who never bought any of my records or haven’t been to any of my live shows know me for just ” Friday Night Knicks.” [Laugh]

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Tommy: Do you think the Knicks will be able to play with the toughness they relied on in the late 90’s now that Kenyon Martin, Metta World Peace, Tyson Chandler, JR Smith, and others are all on board?

Randolph: The 90’s Knicks were the toughest team ever. Mason, Starks, Derek Harper, Oakley… even Xman McDaniel was a badass!! But these Knicks are a much more exciting team to watch and everyone is seriously underestimating how good [Andrea Bargnani] is!

Tommy: Focusing back on your career as a successful musician, what advice do you have for the several fans of our page who are trying to break into the industry as singers and rappers?

Randolph: Fans should just follow their passion and be themselves. Too many singers and rappers try to be like some folks they see on TV, and never get a chance to grow into the talents God has given them!

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Tommy: How do you feel about the state of the Knicks right now, both short-term and long-term?

Randolph: The state of the Knicks right now is all positive. We’ve added all the necessary pieces. I’m concerned about Tyson Chandler’s offensive inability to score, and Amar’e’s knees are a big concern, but Grunwald has provided insurance for both these scenarios. The Knicks will once again win the Atlantic and [they will] proceed to the Eastern Conference Finals this upcoming season!

Tommy: Would you ever consider featuring Knicks guard & rapper Iman Shumpert on a song, now that our other rapper—Steve Novak— has been traded to the Raptors?

Randolph: I would definitely do a hot song with Iman Shumpert! He is talented and everyone is raving about his skills.

Tommy: And now, the question that Knicks fans have all been waiting for. Before this season, the Knicks had never had a winning record on Fridays since you started the job. Many fans started talking about “The Friday Night Knicks Curse”. However, the Knicks went 10-6 on Fridays this past season. How did you improve your game to make this happen? Is the weight of the Knicks community finally off your shoulders?

Randolph: The reason the Knicks were losing, not only on Friday nights but all the time, was because of the sorry coach we had in [Former Knicks’ and current Lakers’ Coach Mike] D’antoni, he has an ego problem. He damaged the careers of Marbury, Eddy Curry and others, tried to do the same thing to Nate Robinson, who we see rose above all of that. And Pau Gasol now that [D’antoni] is on the Lakers… D’antoni should no longer coach NBA basketball

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Randolph seems to have doubts about the true nature of the curse now that it has seemingly been broken. He also seems optimistic about the team. You can follow Randolph here, and buy his latest album “Lickety Split“, which is in stores now.

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