Well that was nice.
Hey everybody! Basketball! Professional basketball! I don’t know about you, but after a summer of fretting over various transactions and weirdly timed front office dismissals, it sure was swell to have, you know, an actual game to watch.
And they won!
Here are your legally mandated preseason caveats. Yes, it was the preseason and there are a slew of new players still learning the offensive and defensive principles/sets/where they should keep their snacks/how many snacks should they eat/etc. It’s probably wise not to go overboard fretting about various veterans who played with, let’s say, less than the optimum effort. Similarly, young’ns peppering the stat line with gaudy digits aren’t guaranteed a pretty sculpture in Springfield, MA.
With that said, let’s talk about the game WHICH THEY WON. TAKE THAT, CELTICS.
A programming note: We won’t be doing the grades in the preseason, just because the generator blows a fuse and starts whirring and emitting smoke from its electro-ears and vomiting spaghetti with a intel core processor pesto trying to dig up photos of Ike Diogu or Chris Babb.
Overall, (again, preseason) they got off to a bit of a bumpy start, amassing ten turnovers in the first half while getting outworked on the boards by the glass-challenged Hub Men. They more or less righted the ship to start the third, holding on to the rock and realizing that aside from Jeff Green, they could pack the paint and force the C’s into long heave. (Though that annoying tendency to double non-threats leaving people wide open for corner threes seems to be in midseason form) Of course, the Celts had to make things “interesting” and yes, even though it’s preseason, watching the Bostonians whittle away at what seemed like an insurmountable advantage with a 33-11 (!) run at the end is a harrowing event. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but recall Game Six and all the other times that Paul Pierce’s wry, sneering grin made me want to hurl heavy objects at the teevee machine). It was annoying to watch, but given the Chris Smith-Tim Jr.-CJ Leslie-Josh Powell-Ike Diogu unit that was tasked with shutting the door, doesn’t mean much.
Some individual notes:
Iman Shumpert: Remember the final game of last season? I know, the lasting memory is probably Lance Stephenson ripping through the defense like a rabid, feral hyena, Roy Hibbert’s devastating block right in Melo’s perpetually grinning mug, or a general sense of dismay that a (mostly) fun season was coming to a premature end. But of course, the game wouldn’t have been as close as it was without Iman’s magma-hot 3rd quarter. Well, it seems as if Iman locked himself and his game in a hermetically sealed hyperbaric chamber since that fateful May evening, because he picked up right where he left off.
And more impressive than the perfect 7-7 shooting night is the way in which he amassed his buckets. He was incredibly decisive, polished and confident. There were times last year that you could see Iman thinking out on the court. Considering he was coming back from a fairly brutal knee mangling, that’s to be expected. But tonight, he took and made more off the dribble shots than we saw in the entirety of his first two seasons. He’s always had a pretty looking shot, especially when spotting, up, but the way he crafted space for himself with a quick first step was really exciting to see.
In addition, he was ostensibly the floor general during the stretches when he shared the backcourt with Tim Hardaway Jr. and while he’s not a player you’d want manning the point for 30+ minutes a night, he made the good, simple pass time and time again and had a nifty feed to Cole Aldrich on a pick and roll.
Whether one chooses to ascribe this burst of offensive brilliance to Son of Wood’s dangling of JR’s candidacy for the starting two spot is a matter of personal preference. One tidbit from Media Day that I think went unmentioned. Shump was sharing the podium with Kenyon Martin and a wise wag from the Fourth Estate asked about “Their pride in defense” or something to that effect. We’ve heard Shump’s response:
“It’s not that I love defense. I say this over and over to everybody, Shumpert added. “I don’t love defense. I want to score so bad, that I’m willing to snatch the ball out of your hands. That’s what defense is about… The game of basketball is to score the ball and have more points than the other team at the end of the game. To do that, I need to snatch the ball from you as many times as I can to give my teammates more chances to score the ball. That’s what it comes down to.”
After that line, he stormed out of the room. Shump was pissed. That’s a good thing. Playing with anger, with a desire to prove something (as long as it doesn’t turn into out-of-control rage), is a good thing. I think (and I’m speculating here) Shump resents being pigeonholed as Tony Allen 2.0 and he’s showing it. Keep it up, Angry Shump.
UPDATE: I guess I was on to something.
Shumpert said he has "a chip on my shoulder."
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 10, 2013
Shumpert on being vocal on the court: That's just how I play. I ain't gonna be quiet about it anymore. I got a chip on my shoulder. #Knicks
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 10, 2013
Pablo Prigioni: Prigs did a dandy job of Pablo Prigioni-ing, sneaking about and deflecting an inbound attempt for a turnover, then positively hounding Avery Bradley up the floor and forcing him out of bounds. He seemed to get lost a bit on the offensive end, perhaps due to the fact that Bargs was the primary recipient of crosscourt passes out of pick and roll/curl action. But still, anyone who doesn’t love the fact that the Knicks managed to hoard enough pennies to retain his services doesn’t have an operant limbic system. And that tan! Be still my heart.
Tyson Chandler: I’m not sure if Tyson’s completely back up to speed yet, though he was eons better than the slinky-necked, hobbled shell we saw in the playoffs. He banked home a nice alley-oop feed from Felton. And that pick and pop jumper he unleashed was sure purty. I guess if you take 600 shots a day, it can improve one’s accuracy. To paraphrase Sailor Ripley, Why it’s taken until his 12th season to try to harness this skill remains God’s own private mystery.
Raymond Felton: Felton had a nifty game, looking slender and swift of foot. It’s odd, but even when he nails that little floater in the lane, it inevitably touches some part of the rim. I’m sure I’m forgetting numerous swished interior shots, but I just assume that he’s going to catch iron.
Andrea Bargnani: A bit of a mixed bag. There were a few Stoudemire-ean moments where he looked absolutely lost trying to figure out where to rotate and to whom he should rotate two in the ‘Bockers switch-happy scheme, losing Sullinger and Wallace repeatedly. Hopefully, his foibles can be partially ascribed to the fact that he’s still rounding into game shape after his bout with Pneumonia. But on the other end, he’s clearly a skilled player. I dug the fact that he primarily limited himself to wide open shots off ball movement or by findspace when Melo’s Melo-ing. That pump fake of his is downright effective, even if it’s so slow it looks like he operates it with a hand crank.
Carmelo Anthony: His jumper was dripping wet to start, punctuated by deft passes to Bargnani and other mates. He started to force it in the third and he let Wallace get position way too easily. Still, it was more or less vintage Melo.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: It’s still going to take awhile to warm up to Timmy—sins of the father and whatnot. But he’s got a sweet J and looks like he could be a plus one on one defender. He’s also so much more effective when he limits his game to spot up attempts or one dribble moves. We saw in the 4th (and during his brief stint in the Las Vegas Summer League) what happens when he’s forced to create for himself. But after he nailed the game winner, the cameras cut to Dad, sitting in attendance courtside. And well, take a look. That’s nice.
Okay, even a cold-hearted cynic like your humble correspondent can’t hate Timmy for that.
Cole Aldrich: He’s got some nice hands (even if he missed more than a few bunnies), hustles/bangs, takes up space and is active on defense but boy oh boy is he corn molasses-level slow. Get well soon, Jeremy Tyler
Beno Udrih: Proving that stereotypes do often exist for a reason, our European import flops like a champ. He’s possibly the diametric opposite of the gent he’s replacing, the current Brooklyn clipboard-holder, but that mid-range shot is very effective.
Metta World Peace: I dunno, dudes. Look, it’s going to be fun having him on the squad, but he’s got zero lift and those awkward low-post attempts aren’t going to fall at a 5-9 clip all year. I’m note-free as far as to how he looked as a defender, which could indicate that he did a solid, if unnoticeable job or that he failed to make an impact or that a shoddy note-taker. I’m hoping it was Option A.
CJ Leslie: Swell game saving block, CJ!
Chris Smith: Chris Smith is not an NBA player. I feel for the guy, what with the recent revelation that all the cries of nepotism only make him want to work harder, but he really shouldn’t make the roster. Sigh.
Toure’ Murry: No Toure’? FIRE WOODSON!
Unfortunately, I was stuck watching the Celtics feed, so I missed out on some vintage Clyde stream-of-consciousness musing about being a sailboat captain and not wanting to hear about pirates, followed hard upon by an invitation that was extended to Mike Breen to traverse the wide Sargasso Sea together.
I would like to state for the record that I would be a devoted fan of any and all Breen-Clyde deep sea fishing reality shows. It’d rate a close second to the greatest Angling program of all time, featuring the great actor/musician/devoted Knicker-backer, John Lurie, “Fishing with John.” The Tom Waits episode was definitely my fave.
But anyhoo, at one point PJ Carlesimo went on a dumb rant about not liking the effect that advanced stats have had on the game of basketball, featuring the derp-tastic straw man argument that those pencil-pushing, asthmatic nerrrrrrrrddddddds don’t actually watch the games. I would’ve transcribed it, but I was pounding nails into the floor with my forehead at the time.
And that’ll do it. We’ll have some more thoughts on the lineup choices and what it means going forward tomorrow, as well as an alliterative #HotSportsTake on Bargnani and a missive on fresh parchment, scrawled in pure virgin crow’s blood from Father Knickerblogger. But for now…
1-0. CHAMPIONS OF THE FIRST PRESEASON GAME 2013-14!!!!!!