By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Nearly one third of current NBA players have D-League experience, so making it to training camp with the Knicks isn't the major accomplishment for a player like Toure' Murry that it once was. More and more, teams are turning to the minors, giving opportunities to hungry young players that used to be reserved for more established veterans.
The odds remain long with rosters mostly set, but as Summer League gives way to training camp and then the regular season, visibility increases for those who manage to stick around.
Murry did more than enough in Las Vegas to earn an extended look, garnering camp invites from multiple teams. In an isolation-heavy environment that favors sizzle, he was all steak, his most memorable highlight coming in the least flashy way possible: as a result of slick hands and supreme feel for the game.
Ultimately, he chose the Knicks because of his relationship with the coaching staff, calling it "an honor" to be invited by Mike Woodson.
As he prepares to make his bid for New York's 15th and final roster spot -- a spot that many teams decide to leave open for flexibility -- he'll rely on a professional, consistent approach to show the coaches that he's ready when his number is called.
"My thing is to come in defensively, bring energy from the get-go," he said as he reflected on his performance with the team in Vegas this July. "Whether I'm starting or coming off the bench, I'm always ready to play. My main job is just be that guy that coach can count on to get stops and score baskets."
Listed at 6-5, Murry played primarily shooting guard and even small forward with some ballhandling duties in four years at Wichita State. But even after leading the Shockers to the NCAA Final Four as a senior in 2012, he'd have to learn to run the point as a pro.
One coach who faced him in the D-League spoke highly of his transition, praising his maturity and ability to guard multiple positions as he embraced the new role as the on-court leader of the champion-winning Rio Grande Valley Vipers last season.
He made himself into a reliable three-point shooter, shooting 36.7 percent from deep while developing feel for running a team. He watched film and practiced running the pick-and-roll, becoming comfortable with the spacing of the pro game and gaining confidence that he could play in the NBA.
During his stint with the Knicks' Summer League entry, he stood out for his quiet focus. In the most unassuming way, he just showed up and played what we like to call "winning basketball," using his length and defensive insticts to harass opposing guards and showing a knack for being in the right position on the floor at all times.
Orchestrating a group of players with no experience playing together didn't faze him one bit: "It's basketball, that's how basketball is. It's learning on the fly. I signed up to do this and I'm able to do it and I will do it. I love this game and I'll do whatever it takes."
There's a thin line between the confidence a point guard must exude and the humility necessary for a young player on the rise, but he possess the right mix that bodes well for him as he heads to camp. To hear him talk about it, learning and leading are not mutually exclusive: "The point guard is a leader and I'm learning every moment I'm on the floor. I'm a sponge and I'll take anything."
Organizations aren't interested in D-Leaguers looking to be The Man, and with three established point guards already under contract, Murry knows his role; he's here to play defense and get better.
He's aggressive -- his 3.6 free throw attempts per 36 minutes last season would've placed him fifth on last year's Knicks -- but plays under control -- his 4.2 assists per 36 would've been fourth, just behind Jason Kidd's 4.4.
He knows that he belongs.
And he's in a good spot, with Raymond Felton (who learned from Kidd), Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih there to guide him as he embarks on this new challenge. Making his mark amidst a deep, veteran group will not be easy, but he's prepared to let his game speak for itself.