Knicks: Cleanthony Early calls out former team’s development program

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 22: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Cleanthony Early #17 of the New York Knicks in action (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 22: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Cleanthony Early #17 of the New York Knicks in action (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Cleanthony Early isn’t impressed with how the Knicks develop their young players.

Former New York Knicks forward Cleanthony Early, who last played for the Knicks in 2016, claims the team’s development program is “non-existent.” Responding to a comment on Instagram, Early boosted his argument by citing the organization’s failure in developing young players, including himself, while listing several other examples.

The Bronx native was the first player drafted (34th overall) by Phil Jackson in 2014 when Jackson became president of the team. Early played only 56 games in the NBA, all for the Knicks, before falling out of the league. His short NBA career was interrupted during the 2015-16 season when he was robbed at gunpoint and shot in the right knee.

While playing in New York, he spent plenty of time traveling between Madison Square Garden and Westchester, home of the organization’s developmental team, becoming the fifth player to appear in both the G-League and NBA on the same day. However, he was clearly unimpressed with the franchise’s commitment to development.

"“Strategies to develop players and the actual program is non existent,” Early wrote on Instagram on Friday. “It’s all nonsense.”"

When a comment suggested the Knicks might have simply struggled to develop Early, the Witchita State product pointed to the lack of progression from his peers.

"“What about my peers lol who they develop,” Early said. “Imma New Yorker I want ny to win always in everything! Winning don’t happen on accident! I could never have played still see the same thing Tim, Jaren, kp, iso, Trey, I can go for days lol.”"

It appears he is referencing Tim Hardaway Jr., Jerian Grant, Kristaps Porzingis, Allonzo Trier, and Trey Burke, none of whom are remaining with the team, several of them playing well for the Dallas Mavericks.

Both Trier and Burke were partial success stories for the Knicks as players who briefly turned into rotation pieces after sharpening their game in Westchester.

Since Early has departed the Knicks, the organization has undergone two major regime changes. First, Phil Jackson was replaced by Steve Mills with Scott Perry brought in as general manager. And most recently, Leon Rose has taken over the top duties.

The Knicks seemed to place an emphasis on their development program shortly after Mills took over as president by hiring Craig Robinson as head of player development in 2017. That year, Westchester took off, finishing with the best record in their division under future Knicks coach Mike Miller. Robinson has since left the organization.

Most recently, New York has hired several assistant coaches known for their development training – Kenny Payne and Johnnie Bryant – and SNY has reported the team expects to add several development coaches in addition to the assistants on new coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff.

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