While Landry Fields was breaking onto the scene and making us all fall in love with him, fellow first-year Knicks teammate Andy Rautins was working just as hard on his game behind the scenes. He didn’t get a ton of burn last season, but he did spend a lot of time in the gym, and as a result, learned a lot about his teammates.

Earlier this offseason, Paul Shirley spoke about Amar’e Stoudemire’s leadership and work ethic to Dime Magazine. One thing I noticed during both trips the Knicks made to Toronto this season was how vocal Stoudemire was throughout the game. On the court and on the bench, he was positive, intense and focused. It was a welcomed sight.

I recently caught up with Rautins after a practice session with the Canadian National team to talk about New York, Stoudemire and that amazing home debut at MSG for Carmelo Anthony.

Holly MacKenzie: So as it stands right now, what is your plan for next season?

Andy Rautins: Right now I’m still with the Knicks and I’m just going to play it by ear. Obviously my goal is to stay in the league and be in New York and to be a part of that system. It’s got great fans, great community, great coaches.

HM: Is there a moment from this past season that stands out to you as a moment you were especially proud of more than the rest of the seasonĀ  as a whole?

AR: There were moments throughout practice. I didn’t really get to showcase myself in games. There was a short rotation, Coach kept a pretty short leash, but I had moments in practice where I broke through some challenges, some point guard challenges, learning the system and that position. I had some great days that were big for me, really helped my morale and where my game was at.

HM: Who were you closest to on the team, besides Landry?

AR: Naturally Landry, as a rookie, but there were a couple guys on the team I felt a great connection with. Amar’e's a great guy, he gets along with everybody. Roger Mason was a great guy, too. He’s a fountain of knowledge because he’s been in the league for eight, nine years now. He always wanted to help the rookies. Everybody on the team got along well.

HM: It’s funny to hear about Amar’e as a leader. So often that’s been a knock against him, but when I had seen you guys play this year, he was extremely vocal and involved from opening tip to the final buzzer. How has he been as a leader?

AR: He’s the most down to earth guy and his personality is enormous. It’s larger than life in New York. He’s my locker buddy, he’s right next door to me, we’re always joking and messing around but when it came down to it, to working, he was the first one in the gym and he set a great example for all of the young guys on the team. Always came to play in practice and in the game for sure.

HM: I’ve got to ask you, what was that first game like when Melo was introduced at MSG? I can’t even imagine the hype, and being at MSG, the excitement, everything.

AR: Oh my goodness. (laughs) I think about that night sometimes, actually. I just think about that night and I think about myself in that night, like, it’s like a dream. They played the beginning of that P. Diddy song “I’m Coming Home” and it just sent chills up my spine. The whole crowd, they had orange lighters and it was really like, it was really like one of the single craziest moments to witness. It was the second craziest moment in MSG for me behind the six overtime game. I’m partial to that, but, I mean, that night was certainly special and I couldn’t even imagine what it was like for him.