With most of their regulars back in action and in a homecoming game for Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks knocked off the Wizards in Baltimore for their second win of the preseason, 98-89. Here are some observations:
- In my game preview piece I predicted Carmelo Anthony would look to come out and shoot a lot, and he did. He scored 22 points in 29 minutes but wasn’t very efficient, needing 17 shots to do so while connecting on just one of his five 3-point attempts. He did chip in five rebounds and four assists. Melo even admitted postgame that it felt more like a charity match, what with all the friends and family in attendance and playing in the dinky Baltimore arena. But that quote wasn’t the one that has a lot of people talking, it was his earlier comments about his desire to become a free agent after the season. It’s amazing that people are actually clicking on tabloid articles about this whole thing, because it’s really not a thing at all. Anthony is going to opt out. Then he’s going to re-sign with the Knicks, because he can make the most money over the most years by doing exactly that. That’s it.
- Andrea Bargnani proved his ability to be quite the giveth-and-taketh-away player. He had a very effective and efficient offensive game, scoring 13 points (11 in the first half) on 4-of-7. He made a three and got to the line four times. But boy howdy did he look lost/disinterested/terrible/atrocious on defense for large swaths of time. Particularly in the second quarter, during which the entire Knicks lineup played as though allowing uncontested layups earned them a prize, and when he was playing center while Melo was at the power forward spot. Knicks Twitter exploded as though the Knicks were blowing a 74 point lead in Game 7 of the NBA Finals when Woodson experimented with this lineup, and I think people to need relax just a tad; if we could all see how bad it was, so could Woodson. It was only a preseason game. That isn’t to say that we won’t see that alignment ever during the regular season, actually, I assure you we will. But the Knicks’ roster and lack of center depth behind Tyson Chandler means that Bargs will play some at the 5. You’d just hope that the rest of the lineup at that time can defend and hopefully keep some people out of the paint, because the rim protection – as it was with Bargs at the 5 on Thursday – will be non existent. The hope is that Woodson only uses this alignment is very dire circumstances.
- Knees and elbows and the New York Knicks just don’t seem to get along, do they? Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni both left the game with elbow issues, although it doesn’t sound like either will be serious.
- I don’t know how good Tim Hardaway Jr. will be as an NBA player, but I know that so far he looks like he belongs. And more importantly, he plays like does. The Knicks are pretty deep in the back court, but it is in their best long-term interests not only to see what they have in Hardaway, but to try and develop him properly. The cash-strapped Knicks will need future contributions from low-cost players, and that’s exactly what Hardaway will be for the first few years of his career. Immediately, I do think he can help the Knicks as a scorer and spot-up shooter off the bench. His defense isn’t nearly there yet, but that’s to be expected.
- Toure Murry made a real case to make the big squad. With Prigioni and Shumpert limited, Murry played 25 minutes and looked quite good in many of them. Aside from the impressive, raw offensive numbers – 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, +11 – Murry showcased his quickness and athleticism on the defensive end. He’s a rangy 6-4 and uses his length well to disrupt passing lanes. It might be tough for him to crack the final roster because the Knicks need some front court depth, but it would be a really tough cut to make.
- As for the big men fighting for a roster spot, I think Ike Diogu might be the leader in the clubhouse at this point. He’s outplayed Cole Aldrich and Josh Powell thus far, and C.J. Leslie would probably be best served starting in the D-League.
- Next up, the Knicks head back to Toronto on Monday. Just three more of these fake ones before it starts for real.