Good job, Knicks! I'm not gonna plunge into a full recap for a preseason game, but, in short: The definite Knicks looked pretty uniformly excellent tonight against a Wizards squad even more short-handed than they were. The camp invites? Not so much. Nobody really stood out from that group. Let's run through some individual notes and whatnot:
- Carmelo Anthony looked nice and varied his approach throughout his stints in the first and third. His outside shots mostly came off the catch (and mostly from 1-5 pick-and-roll kick-outs), and he drilled many of them with the utmost crispness. Often, he looked to put the ball on the floor, which led to some drawn contact (6-7 at the line) and some lovely blow-by first steps when an oaf like Kevin Seraphin stood in his path. On a whole 'nother chunk of possessions, he caught with his back to the rim on either baseline. That led to a few forced shots (spinning away from the double, or just embracing the double and diving into it), but also a whole bunch of quick kick-outs that turned into happy things like open three-pointers for his teammates. He also looked at least moderately interested in defense and pretty active on the glass (5 rebounds in 21 minutes) at both small and power forward. A fine first outing. I wish it counted.
- Another fine first outing: Raymond Felton's. The li'l penguin looked quick 'n' feisty with a couple brisk righty drives directly to the rim and some textbook pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler. This alley-oop off a curl and hand-off was particularly great. He took a handful of his signature straight-on jumpers above the pick and hit just one of them, I think. He looked like Raymond Felton.
- Same goes for Tyson Chandler. Our big friend finished a bunch of plays at the rim (including quite a few lobs), nearly shredded the rim with a putback dunk (Clyde: "Nasty! Sassy!"), and did all the usual help defending and Jan Vesely face-cracking (a preseason technical!) we know and love. No jumpers, and just one or two yucky post-up attempts.
- Kurt Thomas started in place of Amar'e Stoudemire and was just wonderful. I love Kurt Thomas. All three of Kurt's attempts were mid-range jumpers, and only one fell, but he set roughly 750 solid-ass screens (and solid ass-screens) in 15 minutes and played some nice help defense (one drawn charge).
- J.R. Smith was the first man off the bench in both halves and played at very near maximum potency. He sank a couple jumpers off the catch and a whole bunch of them off the dribble-shake, plus some tough finishes off the dribble. Earl made some very useful passes off the bounce, too, and just launched himself at a couple loose balls. We saw some bad J.R.-- one delusional behind-the-legs pass in transition, some ill-advised attempts, and some awful fouls-- but it was handily outweighed by the good.
- The man starting in front of J.R., Mychel Thompson, was pretty shaky in his first NBA-ish minutes (Edit: Tomahawk Stomp reminds me that Thompson played with the Cavs last year). He did a fine enough job getting open, but was, like, leagues off on all his outside attempts. That's supposed to be his thing, so hopefully he'll put those jitters behind him in the coming games. The attempts are there.
- Thompson also looked so upset all the time! Cheer up, Myke! Basketball!
- STEVE NOVAK STEVE NOVAK STEVE NOVAK STEVE NOVAK STEVE NOVAK STEVE NOVAK STEVE NOVAK
- (Not much in the way of fancy cuts or fakes or moves for Novak, but he didn't really need them. The Wizzes left him open, and they paid for it. In blood. Speaking of blood, Novak's only miss was a jaw-dropping righty runner off the dribble.)
- I thought Pablo Prigioni looked pretty awful in his first minutes-- getting repeatedly spun around, lost, and switched instead of sliding his feet on defense and not making much happen on offense-- but much better thereafter (with better courtmates). He made some nice lob things happen when picking and rolling with Chandler and, when playing off the ball alongside Jason Kidd, sank a bunch of three-pointers. Someone mentioned this in the thread, but Pablo's thread is just so delightfully casual. He hardly lifts off the ground, and releases it slowly enough that he appears almost reluctant. 4-8 from downtown, though. Guy wasn't really looking to penetrate at all, and I think that's going to be the case for both Pablo and Kidd.
- Both Kidd and Pablo had a lot of fun picking pockets and sneaking on passing lanes in the second half. On the other hand, Kidd didn't shoot as effectively as Prigioni did, but he did toss a few slick passes, including one exceedingly Kiddian back-handed dish from a post-up to a weak side three (by Novak, I think).
- I was a big fan of Prigioni's two-handed sidewinder bounce entry passes during the Olympics, and I'm still a fan.
- Chris Copeland looked pretty bad to me. He hit just one jumper, and looked so, so flimsy in the paint. Bradley Beal (who is a relatively small person. Good though.) just folded Cope on a couple drives, and Cope kept getting sandwiched or dislodged when battling for rebounds.
- Pretty much the same for John Shurna. Hit just one shot, didn't really roughhouse or pass or defend or do anything else to make up for it.
- The only thing Henry Sims did that I noticed was commit an egregious flop. He, like the rest of those young "bigs" suddenly looked very petite against NBA folks.
- Speaking of "bigs", we saw a Kidd-Prigioni-Smith-Novak-Copeland lineup, which might be the smallest lineup of Knicks I've ever seen.
- I thought the starters did a pretty solid job of pushing through picks and sticking man-on, but the bench bros were switching like fools for stretches. I thought I even saw some zone defense at a couple points, but that might have been an accident.
- The Wizards scored 18 straight points in the second quarter. The Knicks didn't hit a shot until the 4:24 mark.
- Quiet highlight: J.R. Smith, holding the ball on the baseline, watching Cartier Martin fall to the floor, then just standing there dumbfounded for a few seconds with a sort of "Uh, is there a rule about this?" look on his face.
- 26 assists on 34 field goals seems good.
And whoaaaa now I'm at over 1,000 words about a preseason game. Let's end this here. The Knicks, when they were trying to look great, looked pretty great tonight. The ball moved, the shots fell, and the main characters played their roles splendidly. Defense came and went, though, and the kids on the fringe had uniformly lame debuts. Above all else, there was live, competitive basketball. That pleased me.
That is all. The Knicks now head to Connecticut for a game against the Celtics-- a game billed by MSG as "a rivalry so fierce they needed a neutral site", not "a renovation so fierce they needed a neutral site".