Beno Udrih is no stranger to winning an NBA championship. The 31-year old point from Slovenia has won two titles in his career while a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Udrih, who signed a one-year deal with the New York Knicks last month, wants his new team to have the same mentality when training camp begins on September 30th.
The newest backup point guard for the Knickerbockers believes his new team can represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals next season.
“I believe our team can go as far as going to the Finals,’’ Udrih said whi;e attending the US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in his first remarks since signing. “We have to think like that from the first practice. We can be very good. It all depends how seriously we’re going to take it.
“We all believe we can go really far. And our goal from the beginning has to be win it all because we know we’re going to be in the playoffs. Our mentality from the first practice has to be: we want to win a championship.’’
The signing of the veteran point guard for such a cheap price does comes as a bit of shock. Udrih earned just under $7.4 million last season, 75-plus percent more than the $1.4 million he will be making this season with New York.
He's averaging 9.1 points and 3.6 assists per game for his career, but after being traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Orlando Magic last season, his final numbers were even better. When called upon to start the final nine games of the season for the Magic, Udrih averaged 14.3 points, 8.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. He shot just 41 percent from the field, but managed to convert 14 his 26 three-point attempts.
“I just want to be on a winning team,’’ Udrih said. “The last couple of years I was with teams rebuilding. I was trying to bring them a winning mentality and it didn’t happen. Now I’m actually on a team where I can play basketball and help a team win instead of teaching young guys how to win.’’
The Spurs wanted to get Udrih back but he decided that playing at the Garden is a better fit at this stage of his career.
“I’ve been there,‘’ Udrih said of turning down the Spurs. “I know their mentality. Tony Parker’s their guard. Been there, done that. I’ve always wanted to play for the Knicks. It’s something special. ‘’
Udrih has already been working out at the practice facility in Tarrytown with the likes of Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, and Amar’e Stoudemire. He really wants to be one of the key leaders on a team that is built for a championship run.
“I know what it means to win,’’ Udrih said. “Last year’s team got a taste of winning and had bad luck vs. Indiana [in the second round]. Tyson got sick — a lot of injury problems. We have to stay healthy all year and it’s good we have a deep team. Some guys can get time off and still get a win.’’
There is no question that Udrih is a huge get for this team. New York needed another point guard who could serve as a spot-up shooter to complement players like Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith. He made 43.3 percent of his three-point shots last season, which fits right into the current Knicks style. His signing may not mean a title, but it's what the Knicks needed.