Henry Ellenson is at the mercy of the NBA’s quirky 10-day contract, but the New York Knicks may want to take a longer look.
The 10-day contract represents the opportunity to catch on with an NBA team, but it brings a heaping helping of uncertainty as well. Apparently, the precariousness of his situation was weighing heavily on Henry Ellenson. The power forward was brought in by the New York Knicks on what is essentially an elongated tryout.
“We got him in practice, he missed his first two shots in practice,” Fizdale told reporters in the aftermath of a 108-103 Knicks victory over the Orlando Magic. Ellenson’s nerves didn’t last long though.
“Then he settled in and he’s been playing good basketball for us ever since. I didn’t think I was going to play him 36 minutes but he played so well,” Fizdale said.
Indeed, Ellenson put together the best game of his young and, thus far, disappointing career. The 6-foot-11 forward dropped 13 points, snagged nine rebounds, dished out five assists, and added two steals for good measure. He was 5-for-11 from the field and an impressive 3-for-6 from three-point range.
Despite the fact that he was one of the best players on the floor, Ellenson didn’t quite expect to play as long as he did.
“Coach Fiz left me in there for a while in the first half. I looked back a couple of times because I didn’t expect it,” Ellenson said with a smile beaming from ear to ear. “He subbed me in the first and I stayed in for the rest of the second. Then he subbed in the third and I stayed in for the rest of the game. He gave me an opportunity to be out there and play. Go compete and play hard. Guys were locked into our game plan. We switched a lot, and guys were communicating. It was a lot of fun. I can’t tell you the last time I played 36 minutes.”
The Marquette University product was instrumental in a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback that electrified Madison Square Garden. His timely plays were key towards propelling the Knicks to their second win in as many games—the first time the team has accomplished the feat since November.
“Just being at the Garden, growing up watching Melo [Carmelo Anthony] as my favorite player this is definitely special for me,” the big man told reporters. “I want to keep it going. I had one good game. I’m going to enjoy it tonight, but it’s back to work tomorrow.”
Ellenson knows this feeling could be fleeting. Tuesday was a dream, but Wednesday is just practice. Then Thursday is another opportunity to show what he can do on the court against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Knicks can sign Ellenson to another 10-day contract, which they likely will. Then they’ll have to decide whether they want to sign the former first-round pick to a deal to finish out the season. This exact scenario transpired with Troy Williams last season before the Knicks waived him over the summer before the guarantees on his contract kicked in for the 2018-19 season. But the summer is a long way off for Ellenson. Right now, he’s just focusing on making the most of his opportunity.
“The first day I met Fiz he said he was going to let me play and do my thing, have confidence on the court,” Ellenson said. “In two and a half years I didn’t have a chance to play. Now coming in here and having a chance from the front office and Fiz. I’m trying to make the most of it.”
This current Knicks roster is constructed of many castoffs—former first-rounders taking advantage of second chances. Noah Vonleh, Emmanuel Mudiay, John Jenkins, Mario Hezonja, and even Dennis Smith Jr. are five examples on the current roster. Trey Burke was another reclamation project undertaken by the brain trust consisting of Fizdale, general manager Scott Perry, and team president Steve Mills.
Ellenson is just the latest roll of the dice. Every good team wants to believe they are capable of finding talent that was either underutilized or underappreciated somewhere else. Every front office is looking for that diamond in the rough.
“Scott Perry was telling me about this kid,” Fizdale recalled. “He was drafted 18, he’s got the talent, he lost his confidence. Let’s see if we can build him up and see what we have.”
Tuesday’s victory over the Magic was a night to remember for Ellenson. But will that performance propel him to a new future with the Knicks or will he be another late-season flash in the pan like Burke and Williams before him?