ORLANDO — Ron Baker was one Knick sorry to see president Phil Jackson fired. Two weeks ago, at the Tarrytown facility, Jackson helped the 6-foot-4 combo guard prepare for throwing out the first pitch of a recent Kansas City Royals game.
Baker, who agreed to terms on a two-year deal for likely the cap-room exception at the stroke of midnight, is from Scott City, Kan.
“Obviously, I really enjoyed Phil Jackson, he taught me a lot,’’ Baker said. “The past year he wasn’t just a mentor but a really good friend. A couple of weeks ago we were playing catch in the training facility for my pitch. That’s how the business goes sometimes.”
Jackson gave Baker undue praise after the season as setting an example on how defense should be played. Though Jackson is gone, Baker has an equally big supporter in coach Jeff Hornacek, whom he once called his doppelganger. Last June, Baker went undrafted after four years at Wichita State, lightly regarded like his head coach.
“Our stories are very similar,’’ Baker said. “His career and my career hopefully can line up some day. Hopefully I can play as long as he did. Someone I can look up to and trust on the court. Everything he says I relate to well. I like playing under him.’’
Baker tweeted his signing at midnight Friday and immediately heard from Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee – two veterans who he said took him under their wing. No word from Carmelo Anthony.
Baker, who struggled in the early going of summer league last year, won’t play this year as his contract isn’t official until July 8.
In the opener, the summer-league team pushed the ball more than the standard triangle fare of late last season.
“I see the coaches putting little wrinkles into it,’’ Baker said. “It’s looking pretty good. It’s going to be smoother. I think the flow of the offense is a lot better with the new wrinkles, so we get more ball movement and make the defense work a little bit. Part of our problem last year, the ball got sticky and we took poor shots.’’
Baker wasn’t referencing Anthony per se, but Jackson’s complaint with their on-the-block superstar was exactly that.
Baker wouldn’t say how many teams inquired, but he was dead-set on returning.
“I’m more excited it’s done and I can put my mind on next year and know where I’ll be,’’ Baker said. “I like the front office, the franchise, coaches, the players still here. Hopefully we’ll get more guys the next couple of days and make a solid roster.’’
The new rookie is now point guard Frank Ntilikina, who sat out with a knee injury.
“Obviously a talent. It’s always nice to have a guy six years younger than me to play with,’’ Baker said.
The Knicks summer league team, still playing portions of the triangle, lost to Dallas, 80-75, as Ntilikina sat out with a sore right knee. He likely won’t play until the third game Monday. Second-rounder Damyean Dotson secured eight rebounds but was off the mark until late when he bagged two straight 3s and finished 3-of-9 for 10 points. He was 0-for-5 from 3-point land before the final minute. Undrafted center Luke Kornet , who is expected to have a two-way contract, added 12 points, draining four of seven 3-pointers. Louis Labeyrie, their 2014 French stash pick, added 10 points and six rebounds (4-for-4 from the field).