J. Cole grew up in the same town as Dennis Smith Jr. and, as legend has it, once tried to walk on to the basketball team at St. John’s.
The famous rapper, who graduated magna cum laude from the Queens school in 2007, was a popular attendee at Knicks practice Saturday in Tarrytown.
Smith is friendly with Cole, who is 12 years older but grew up in the same hometown of Fayetteville, N.C. The third-year guard joked with reporters that he’d be taking “no J. Cole questions,” but coach David Fizdale said the 11-time Grammy nominee was “here to support all of us” and described him as “one of my favorite rappers.”
“It was awesome,” Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina said. “It was really cool that we can talk and have a conversation with him about how we can do better in this world, either him about music or us about basketball. It was just amazing.”
Knicks forward and former Celtic Marcus Morris did not practice and has been listed as questionable for Sunday’s home game against Boston with cervical spasms in his neck.
Point guard Elfrid Payton (strained right hamstring) was a limited participant and “is starting to make some strides,” Fizdale said, but he’ll miss his 16th consecutive game.
The Knicks worked on free throws at the end of practice pumping loud crowd noise into the gym after they missed 14 of 33 from the line in Friday’s loss to the 76ers. The Knicks (4-15) are last in the NBA with a 67.2 free-throw percentage this season.
“It’s so critical for us,” Fizdale said. “I want to say eight of our losses we shot an average of 65 percent. Our close games, you can’t shoot that low of a percentage. Our margin for error isn’t that good. Obviously, that’s a huge emphasis today after practice.”
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