After a relatively mellow morning practice, the evening scrimmages at day 4 of Knicks training camp in Saratoga were among the best I've seen. Skidmore faculty were invited into the gym and permitted to bring their kids (there was a Q&A session with the rookies post-practice), so a particularly large and engaged crowd was at hand. A number of Knicks seized the opportunity to impress, and the games got pretty intense pretty fast. Some notes:
- The main instigators of what became a pretty heated battle were Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon. Robinson's squad (which was pretty much him and the youngsters) hit a little run of success, with Nate and Toney Douglas taking turns at the point and running show on both ends of the floor. After some posturing and trash talk from Nate (naturally), Du just lost it. He'd been typically mild-mannered for all of camp, but absolutely hit the ceiling tonight. It was great. Duhon and his blue squad (Hughes, Darko, Chandler, and Lee) immediately got to work, with the energized point guard directing traffic, screaming at refs, and even giving his own Gladiator-like speech to anyone who'd listen during a break in play ("Go get a drink, then come watch us play!). Du's masterpieces of the evening, though, were a couple of his signature downtown bombs. Despite discouragement from assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, Chris spotted up from about 30 feet out, and hit nothing but net, assuring the crowd that he could hit it "from the bus" if he wanted to. He hit another deeeeep one in scrimmage and a bunch afterward just to prove his point.
- Adding to the excitement was an especially active Al Harrington, who continued to abuse every defender in his path (and a ref or two as well). I believe the word that Al's added muscle over the summer, because he's willing and able to bully his way to the basket and finish strong. The outside shots are falling, too.
- Brace yourself. Jared Jeffries has been one of the best players on the floor throughout camp. I'm serious. It was cute at first, but Jared made it clear tonight that he's determined to be a factor. His outside shots continued to fall, and he put the ball on the floor for difficult finishes with either hand. On the other end, Jeffries hounded guards in the backcourt, then raced back to legitimately swat a few people under the basket. My friend (a Celtics fan, I'm afraid, but he appreciates the Knicks) said, without a hint of sarcasm, "he looks like Kevin Garnett out there". It was a sight to be seen.
- Toney Douglas continues to impress me on defense. As an athlete, he's unspectacular, but he's determined to bust his ass to stay with his assignment. It's especially refreshing to see someone get over a screen now and then.
- Both Darko Milicic and Jordan Hill continued to run the floor nicely, though neither can seem to find their outside shot. For Jordan, it's a matter of squaring himself with confidence and not hesitating (aka Channing Frye Syndrome). For Darko, it seems like more of a tiredness issue. The big fella was winded enough to actually call for a sub this evening. All that said, I think both are ready to run pick and rolls all season long.
- I think I buy the idea of Danilo Gallinari acting as a shooting guard on offense, but I'm not so down with his matching up that way on D. Gallo matched up with Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry (the latter of which isn't nearly as ridiculous, but still) at times, and had trouble keeping up when he got screened or lost on the break. At one point, a frustrated Gallo objected to some physical positioning by Landry, and simply shoved him out of bounds with two hands. The guy's got fire, but I wonder if throwing him out there against guards maximizes his talents.
- A little kid sitting behind me remarked that Nate Robinson looks like Terrell Owens. I was ready to shred that racist little six year-old punk to bits in this space, but you know what? I kinda see it.
- Line of the night goes to one of the refs who, witnessing the crowd's excitement during a break in play, announced "IT'S ON NOW!" to everyone in his immediate vicinity.
That's it for now, folks. The last practice is mid-day tomorrow. You can look forward to a little bit of interview footage (today's were a lot of fun), some nice photos, and some closing notes from me. As far as scrimmage video goes, look no further than The Knicks Blog. I'm going out now. Have a good one.