Andy Rautins knows he beat odds

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

TORONTO - The daily messages Andy Rautins received were more than reminders from a father who took his game to the sport’s highest level.

Rautins took the missives to heart, whether it was preparing for a conference game, tournament tip, the occasion varied but the words always resonated.

As Leo Rautins began to settle in for his broadcasting duties in the build-up for Wednesday’s season opener at the Air Canada Centre, the Rautins ritual would continue on a night when Andy Rautins would usher in his NBA beginning.

“The message would be something along the lines of: ‘Hey, this is work for you. You’re here, enjoy it and grab the opportunity by the short hairs.’ ’’

Andy Rautins begins his transition from college to the NBA, from shooting guard to point guard.

“For me (Wednesday) was just another day,’’ Andy Rautins began. “It’s just another day to work hard, to be grateful for being able to play a game I love.

“I’m here to work my tail off because one day you could be here and the next day you could be gone.”

There are no guarantees for Andy Rautins, who was taken in the second round (38th overall) by the Knicks, no promises of playing time and no reason to ever take anything for granted.

That Toronto should provide the setting for his regular-season unveiling doesn’t get lost on Rautins, who played for his dad on Canada’s national team on the same ACC court.

Andy’s grandparents made the drive from Oshawa and several other family members were on hand to celebrate the occasion.

As a kid, Andy would accompany his father to Raptors games and get shots off following team shootarounds and during pre-game warmups.

“I always remember the first year of the franchise in 1995 and a security guard coming up and saying the kid has to leave the court,’’ Leo Rautins recalled. “I just looked at him and told him you should be the one telling him to leave because if it were me, I’d be on the floor too.”

Andy Rautins turns 24 next Tuesday at a time when he’s beginning to better understand the NBA’s nuances and the subtleties of playing under Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni.

“Like most rookies, there’s an initial shock to the system, but as you get more accustomed and acclimated you realize it’s your job and you play the game as hard as you can.

“Every day you bring a work mentality. I knew I was in the NBA when Amare (Stoudemire) hits you while setting a screen in practice. That sort of lets you know that you’re in the NBA.”

Getting stronger, getting more accustomed to running an offence from the point position, being able to stay in front of an opponent on defence, there are plenty of challenges that await Rautins.

“I feel my quickness is where it needs to be,’’ he said. “I can always get stronger and I’ll put a few pounds on during the course of the season, but I’m not getting tossed around.”

While the NBA game is played at a quicker pace, one of Rautins’ biggest transitions at this level was to slow down his game, which was made easier through the pre-season.

“I’m never going to be shy with my shot when a look is open,’’ he said. “At times playing the point, I was going too quick and I wasn’t getting the guys set up on offence.

“I’m starting to slow things down and I also began to realize that (defensive) pressure is sometimes a bluff. Once I get my bearing and feel more comfortable, I’ll be all right.”

Leo Rautins, as you might expect, is proud of his son.

“The one thing I’ve already told him is that he’s beaten the odds,’’ Leo Rautins added.

“Be as good as you can be, go out every single day to prove yourself and do whatever it takes because this is your job. The NBA is a long season and things can change overnight.”

But there is only one opening night and it arrived on Wednesday.

“One thing people don’t see are the tears, frustration, anger, the hurt when others are saying things, but as a parent you’re there for all that.

“To see your kid get to this point is a great feeling because you know how much this means to Andy. To have it in Toronto in front of grandparents who love him makes it even more special.”


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