With all preseason games in the books and the season opener less than a week away, the New York Knicks announced their roster cuts on Saturday.
The process of whittling their 20-man roster down to 15 players began on Friday when they waived Chris Smith, who had undergone knee surgery and was expected to be out for three to six months (per AP, via NBA.com).
Saturday, four more roster deletions were announced: Oscar Bellfield, Mychel Thompson, John Shurna and Henry Sims (per Newsday's Al Iannazzone on Twitter).
Sims' odds of making the roster increased when Rasheed Wallace was unable to get into adequate shape to participate in preseason games, and Amar'e Stoudemire suffered a ruptured cyst in his knee which will keep him out for at least the first week of the regular season.
But Wallace scrimmaged with the team on Friday, and—based on the cuts—is now projected to make the regular-season roster. They need him in the frontcourt more than ever with Stoudemire out, Marcus Camby nursing a sore calf and Tyson Chandler ailing with a bruised knee.
Shurna was widely compared to Steve Novak as both are stretch 4s that can knock down three-pointers.
In early October, Novak spoke about Shurna to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York, saying, "He's done a great job at camp. . .He's a good player. There's a spot for him, there's no doubt about that." But the rookie out of Northwestern disappointed in preseason games and looked like he needs more polish.
According to Al Iannazzone, the Knicks's D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, still retain the rights to all the waived players:
The Knicks DLeague team still have their rights.
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 27, 2012
This means that the Knicks may not have seen the last of any of the five players they cut, as any one of them could develop their games in the lower levels of the organization and get their shots at the NBA later this season or next.
ESPN New York's Ian Begley tweeted out the bad news for the four players, but at least one rookie on a non-guaranteed contract got lucky:
Chris Copeland has made the 15-man roster. #Knicks waive Oscar Bellfield, John Shurna, Mychel Thompson & Henry Sims, are down to 15 players.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 27, 2012
After playing for multiple teams around Europe and spending last year with Belgium's Okapi Aalstar, Chris Copeland has cracked an NBA roster.
The 28-year-old impressed in the preseason. He notched 21 points in 19 minutes against Boston in the team's second exhibition game. A week later, again versus the Celtics, he poured in 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting, also going 9-of-9 from the free-throw line.
He chipped in 15 points against the 'Sixers and 16 against the Nets to finish out the preseason.
The 6'8", 225-pound Copeland displays the high basketball IQ typical of a player that has spent time in European leagues. He has good athleticism and can score in a variety of ways.
The one caveat for "Cope" is that he will need to work on his defense if he wants to see anything more than a handful of minutes in garbage time.
Who was more deserving of a roster spot?
Mike Woodson will surely coach him up on that. Copeland could also work on his rebounding instincts, and he needs to be more careful with the ball and avoid getting out of control.
After bouncing around the D-League and Europe for the past six years, the young man from Orange, NJ sounds determined to stay in the NBA.
As he told Tony Williams of NJ.com: "I know I have to continue to work hard, and have to work just as hard, if not harder [than the veterans] to try and better myself." His dedication will help cement him as a valuable contributor at the back of the Knicks' rotation.
Copeland earned the 15th roster spot with his sterling play during the preseason. He was a nice pickup for GM Glen Grunwald and he will certainly contribute to the team, especially early in the season with the Knicks having questions around their ailing (and aging) frontcourt.
It's great news for Copeland, but his gain is not necessarily the other players' loss. The final chapter of the story for Bellfield, Thompson, Shurna, Sims and Smith has not yet been written.