Aaaaand this season's first game of semi-organized Knicks basketball is in the books. It was downright ugly at times, but the Knicks managed to shake off some rust and mesh in the second half, outclassing a rather feisty Milano squad. Both teams were sloppy and turnover-prone from the outset, and the Knicks might not have run a successful halfcourt set until the third quarter. The chemistry improved from one period to the next, though, and we came away with plenty of moments worthy of excitement.
Take the jump for a few notes on individual performances and choice moments.
- Clyde kicked off the preseason with his furry leopard-print blazer and a green squiggly tie. Ain't no thang.
- The Milano mascot is a giant mercury penis with a flaming glans. It also has a shield to protect itself. Naturally.
- The first quarter (and maybe the whole first half, but some Chinese food was delivered early in the second so that part of the game is kind of a blur) was a clinic in how not to run an offense. The Knicks managed to hit from outside and scrap for easy buckets, but the halfcourt spacing and timing was pretty dreadful. Raymond Felton was a little careless with his passing, Amar'e Stoudemire dribbled waaaaay too much, and there was just a teamwide lack of cohesion. So many bad passes, guys. If somebody made a Craig's List page for the first half, it would've been in the "Missed Connections" section.
- Midway through the second and into the third, we finally saw some successful pick-and-rolls with Felton and Stoudemire, some good ball movement for open shots, and more of an effort to draw contact (particularly when the second unit got to spin).
- This team is going to be better at defending the paint than any Knicks team in years. However, if this game is any indication, they'll be just as bad at closing out three-point shooters as any recent Knicks team.
- On that note, we'll jump right into the player performances. Amar'e Stoudemire dominated kids around the basket. In just 28 minutes, he shot 10-13 from the floor and earned himself an 11-13 showing from the line. Early on, Amar'e overdribbled a bit and got himself into pickles, but as he and Felton grooved a bit better, Stoudemire made catches in more comfortable areas and used sheer force to score up and over helpless Milano defenders. He had a few careless moments on the glass and on close-outs, but Stoudemire's defense at the rim was adequate enough.
Oh, and there was this. I can get used to that.
- Raymond Felton looked a bit sluggish and out of the sorts in the first half, but asserted himself more later on. His 8 assists were lovely, but I was most delighted with the two occasions on which Felton drove to the rim and muscled his way to a finish on the baseline. I won't name names, but the fortitude and willingness to score at the rim is really a welcome departure from the last two years. Oh, and the boxscore says Felton got three steals, but I don't remember any of them. Everybody was stealin' in this one.
- Ronny Turiaf wasn't especially useful with the ball in his hands, but he navigated the floor well and played very nice floor defense against the Milano big men. I don't recall if we saw this or not, but I'd be interested to watch a Turiaf-Timofey Mozgov tandem go to work on defense.
- Danilo Gallinari, the hometown hero, came out firing and got into a bit of a rhythm after missing his first two threes. Later on, he put the ball on the floor more frequently and got to the line some. A big stat for Gallo was the 7 rebounds he posted. He'll need to be in that 5-10 range every night to supplement a somewhat glass-negligent front line.
- Wilson Chandler looked really, really promising, particularly after a frustrating training camp. He was moving very smoothly with the ball, and shook loose for a few pull-up Js. He looked a lot more confident off the bounce than he did like...a week ago. I'll take 7-9 shooting from Wil every night, please and thank you.
- Timofey Mozgov, y'all. There were some silly fouls (he finished with 4) and lapses in concentration, but Timo was mostly excellent. He made plays at the rim (and not just easy ones), drew contact whenever possible (4-6 at the line), and even demonstrated some touch with a baby J or two. Defensively, Mozgov just swatted cats like it was nothing. Timo will need to work on going straight up and avoiding contact, but the dogged pursuit and sufficient athleticism to rack up blocks is so, so refreshing. I don't want to get hyperbolic just yet, but Mozgov looks good. Very good. I like the guy more every time I watch him play.
- Toney Douglas did what Toney Douglas do and Roger Mason did whatever it is that he does. Both handled the ball just fine, contributed to the pesky defense, and didn't make glaring mistakes. I don't really recall much else from either of them except for Toney's off-the-backboard oop to Anthony Randolph.
- Speaking of which, Anthony Randolph made his share of miscues (5 fouls and a couple turnovers), but it's hard to argue with the rest of his production. Randolph notched 16 points on soaring off-angle finishes a few feet from the rim. The Milano defenders just couldn't hover in the air long enough to contest Anthony's outstretched left hand, and he demonstrated some nice body control to find the net while gliding diagonally. He and Wilson Chandler should compare notes. Randolph contested shots and snaggled boards as well, but like Mozgov, he'll need to avoid maiming folks in the process if he wants to stay on the floor.
- This morning, I would've told you that Landry Fields was a lock to get more minutes than Bill Walker. One meaningless game later, I'm not so sure. For one, Walker played more minutes (17) than Fields did (10), so there's that. For two, Fields (who was probably pretty nervous, to be fair) looked skittish and uncomfortable with the ball in his hands, while Walker was composed and buried a couple of threes. That'll be a battle to watch throughout the preseason.
- A photo montage of '70s Mike D'Antoni revealed that he once had a full beard, and that thing was lush.
- A lineup I adore: Felton, Douglas, Chandler, Randolph, Mozgov. Opponents pretty much have to huddle on the floor and bearhug the ball to keep possession.
- Mike Breen on mozzarella cheese: "Oh my goodness, it's so good".
- Mike Breen: "Anthony Douglas".
- Ibrahim Jaaber has amazed me since I saw him play in Vegas. He is the feistiest little defender out there and his jump shot looks like a mutant lotus flower blooming at hyperspeed.
- Now that Landry Fields sculpts his hair into a little fauxhawk, he and Gallinari are kind of hard to tell apart on TV. In anything less than HD, Gallo's shininess is all that distinguishes him (Well, and the fact he's a lot better at basketball).
- I don't recall what this means, but one of my notes says "Gallos hoes". Interpret that how you will.
- OH, it was supposed to be "Gallo shoes". Yeah, his shoes were really ugly.
That's all I've got for now. I might rewatch the game to see if there's more to be learned, or I might just sleep on this one.