The Knicks are 1-0 in preseason play. If the regular season were to start today and then end later in the day, the Knicks would be the number one seed.
Maybe it’s because it was the first time I’ve watched basketball in months, but this was pretty entertaining for a preseason game. The Knicks looked to be totally in command halfway through the 4th quarter, up 90-68, but in typical NYK fashion, they somehow managed to let the Celtics right back in it, actually going down 102-101 with seconds to play. On their last offensive possession, the Knicks got a clutch baseline jumper from rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. (more on him later), taking the lead for good and closing out the win with a C.J. Leslie block. Who is C.J. Leslie, you ask? Why, read on!
– Most Knick fans are probably wondering how Andrea Bargnani did, so I’ll cut to the chase: He was more or less exactly what you’d expect. Wasn’t much of a presence on the glass, had a couple of defensive miscues/miscommunications with Tyson Chandler that will likely iron themselves out to an extent as the season goes on, and was pretty great offensively. He had a nice two man game going with Melo at times, knocking down midrange shots and drawing fouls with a very effective head fake. Andrea ended up starting the game, which may or may not be an indication of what’s to come in the regular season. As Woodson previously indicated, Melo, Felton and Chandler are the only sure things at this point.
-Tonight the starters were Felton, Prigioni, Carmelo, Bargnani and Chandler. The two guard lineup that worked so well last season continued to be successful, as Prigioni downright hounded the opposition on defense, forcing two tricky Prigioni steals (including one delicious inbound dupe) in a single minute of play. As Clyde said in the broadcast, “always creating havoc.” The other guard, who goes by the name of Raymond, looked pretty fantastic. He clearly lost weight in the offseason, and his new sleek frame contributed to one memorable fast break score where he kicked his speed into a previously unreachable gear. I like slim Felton very much. Not much to report on Melo (he’s still one of the best players in the league and shoots a lot), already mentioned Barg’, so let’s talk about Tyson. He made a jump shot! Mike Breen pointed out that he’s been taking 600 shots a practice, so hopefully he’s added a facet to his game rather than merely offering a false glimmer of hope. I’m leaning slightly closer to the former, because unlike in previous years, his shot didn’t look like a swan vomiting. Relatively smooth stroke, Tyson!
-A lot of guys came off the bench tonight, so I’ll save this bullet for just the regular bench folk – Scrubs have their own bullet below. Anyway, the first guy to come off the bench was Metta World Peace, and although he went 5-9, it felt like he went 5-15. The man is not afraid to shoot. Metta managed to fill up the stat sheet with four rebounds and three assists in his 22 minutes, but I think we’re in for a year ripe with “why are you shooting”‘s with him and JR on the squad. Shumpert was the next guy to come in, and the dude flat out dominated. He didn’t even miss a shot, going 7-7 with 18 points and racking up three assists in the process. It looks like he’s picking up right where he left off in the Indiania series last year, and that is a very good thing. Arguably just as smooth with the jumper last night was the rookie, Tim Hardaway Jr. Guy can shoot! His defense looked a little sloppy as he literally ran over a Celtic on a switch, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to score off the dribble once teams adjust and play up on him, but what a great first game. 6-10, 16 points and a game winner. Last and least – but still not bad – was Beno Udrih. He looked a little rusty, only going 2-8 and forcing the issue at times, but he also managed to get four assists in 19 minutes without me noticing. Too early to be concerned about this, but I did notice that he had two turnovers. The Knicks’ strength last year was not doing that ever, so it’s something to watch for in the coming games.
-Now for the scrubs. Cole Aldrich is trying to secure the backup center role, and after stinking up the joint in the early going, he managed to settle down and be not terrible. At the vert least, he was hustling, and it paid off with a solid five boards and what felt like five almost-dunks. It’s too bad Jeremy Tyler’s hurt, because I would have liked to see how he stacked up against Aldrich (I suspect he’s better). C.J. Leslie, an undrafted small forward out of NC State, looked a bit malnourished and forty years old, but he hit his only shot and came up with a gave saving block in the final seconds. Nice, C.J.! Not much to say about Chris Smith or Ike Diogu. Both were mostly invisible in their combined 11 minutes, and when they did touch the ball, not much good happened. Oh, yeah, and Josh Powell played a lot for some reason. He had three turnovers and three fouls in thirteen minutes, but he also had a glorious, LeBron style block.
-As far as the competition is concerned, I don’t think the Celtics will be nearly as bad as everyone thinks. Sullinger looked great, hitting a number of shots from long distance, while Jeff Green, Humpries, MarShon Brooks and Gerald Wallace did their respective things. Avery Bradley may not be up to NBA point guard standards, but once Rondo comes back this team looks like it has the depth to compete with anyone on a given night. If they don’t unload all their expiring contracts at the deadline for draft picks (they probably should do that) expect them to make the playoffs as a 6-8 seed in the stacked at the top, not so at the bottom Eastern Conference.
Yay, Knicks! Next up is Friday’s matchup against the Raptors, in which Steve Novak will no doubt seek his revenge.