Win or lose, that was a lot of fun. It was a truly surreal experience to see three brand new Knicks have such an effect on what was nearly a rousing win over a very good Thunder team. I couldn't help but spend most of the night laughing at the strangeness of it all. Watching Tracy McGrady get isolated and go to work, nodding my head as the lightning-quick Sergio Rodriguez broke down the defense, and cheering aloud for Eddie House were all way down the list of "things I expect to do during a Knicks game this season". We saw plenty of the same old issues, but there was a sense of excitement in the MSG crowd palpable even through the television. The rest of this season might not amount to much, but it will certainly be interesting.
After the jump, some quick thoughts on a trio of debuts and the Knicks' overall performance.
- Tracy McGrady is a step slow. Let's get that out of the way. His strides are long and deliberate, and he isn't exactly exploding off the floor. Nobody expected that, though, and McGrady impressed in pretty much every other regard. I've never liked his release- all the flailing and kicking makes it look so effortful- but Tracy was cash from pretty much every range tonight. McGrady didn't rely on the jumper, though. He got past his man with shrewd footwork and some strength, and made some great drives to the basket. Many of those ended in acrobatic makes and fouls (sometimes both), and on a number of plays he found the open man. The passing, really, was my favorite part. He finished with 5 assists, the best of which was a halfcourt bounce pass with backspin to a breaking Al Harrington.
One thing's for certain: McGrady is going to handle the rock quite a bit when he's on the floor. He's got no interest in the catch-and-shoot, and will probably dribble the occasional possession into the ground. Still, Tracy proved from the outset that he's still very capable of creating his own shot, and will give up the ball when he sees fit. Essentially, Tracy McGrady is Al Harrington's self-image.
Anyway, 26, 5, and 4 for McGrady. 10-17 shooting from the floor, 5-7 at the line. He played 32 of the game's 53 minutes, so as not to push his legs too hard in his first night. Superb game from Tracy.
- I love Sergio Rodriguez. I knew I would but, well...I do. The Kings and Blazers fans that prepped us for the Rodriguez experience were on the money. He's fast as hell, but not in that notorious "only one speed" way. Sergio changes pace brilliantly, with the ability to stop on a dime and a truly sweet high-low dribble. He's also a goddamn wizard on the drive, as he showed with a handful of absolutely electric dimes off the dribble. There are issues, of course. Rodriguez's own offense (2-8) was erratic as advertised, but he created some nice looks and didn't take any egregious attempts. Sergio also gambled a bit on defense, but it paid off on more than one occasion. All told, it's a breath of fresh air to watch a point guard beat his man off the dribble and wreak havoc from the painted area. Sergio Rodriguez probably played the worst of the three newcomers, but he's still the one that excited me the most.
- I don't have the words to describe how utterly preposterous it felt to be rooting for Eddie House. This is a guy who I came to despise in Boston, so pounding my fist when he nailed ridiculous pull-up threes was surreal. House's game has always really aggravated me, but when he's on your team? It's pretty fucking hilarious and quite a bit of fun. House finished with 24 points on 8-14 shooting and 4 three-pointers, and made me belly-laugh on literally every make.
- House also set some really nice picks and grabbed a few boards and loose balls. Just saying.
- The Knick defense on Kevin Durant was, for the most part, really superb. Danilo Gallinari, in particular, did a fantastic job getting a hand in KD's face and chasing him off the ball. The only possession I noticed in which the Knicks truly botched their Durant-fense was on the last Thunder possession of regulation, when nobody came close to contesting his game-tying three. That said, Durant is not a mortal like the rest of us, and could care less about a good close-out or a hand in the face. With or without a Knick crowding him, Durant hit the big jumpers. Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat. Still, amidst a quiet offensive outing, Gallinari's defense deserves recognition.
- The Knicks' post defense sorely misses Jared Jeffries, and will continue to do so. David Lee actually looked better than usual contesting shots, but had nobody to help him on the glass, and the Knicks repeatedly got punished on second efforts.
- On the other hand, the Thunder play such good pressure defense. It's astounding.
- Legs got to spin and, perhaps inspired by McGrady's debut, looked pretty fresh. I can't say enough, though, about how bizarre it is to see a Knick lineup featuring a curly, sort of thick Tracy McGrady, a Spanish speedster with Jason Statham's hairline, and Jonathan Bender. It's just insane. I haven't even mentioned that Thabo Sefolosha got poked in the eye on one play, so for half the game, there was also a black Swiss guy wearing Rec Specs on the floor.
- Speaking of which, Clyde's mispronounced name of the night is "Sefamaloafa".
- Also from Clyde, after David Lee lost his footing on a drive: "Lee hit a wet spot while penetrating". Like I said in the game thread, if that doesn't make you giggle, we simply don't see eye-to-eye.
- Wilson Chandler had a quick stretch in the third quarter in which he was converting some beautiful scoop finishes, but he struggled for the most part. Silent Wil was rushing some of his late-game attempts, for whatever reason, and botched more than one lay-in that usually wouldn't be a problem.
- The Rodriguez/House tandem is captivating. Recklessness for days.
- Sergio quickly learned that Al Harrington is where gorgeous passes go to die.
- The Knicks' late-game play-calling and execution was, as usual, baffling. The tie-breaking attempt at the end of regulation was a Gallinari fade-away 28 footer. Down 1 at the end of the OT, the play was an all-too-quick contested runner by Wilson Chandler (on which he was probably fouled, but still...). As I've said before, this is equal parts poor planning and more execution. Instead of harping on that, though, I'll turn to a pretty nifty playcall towards the end of regulation. Before the cold-blooded Durant tied things up, the Knicks had the ball coming out of a time-out up 1 with 32 seconds remaining. Instead of working the ball around, D'Antoni had it inbounded to House, who instantly canned a jumper, thus engaging the rare and wonderful fourth quarter 2-for-1. The Knicks were thereby guaranteed a game-winning possession, though we all know how that went.
- As I mentioned before, McGrady rested his knee for large stretches of the fourth quarter and overtime, even in the face of "WE WANT T-MAC!" chants. This was probably a wise move. McGrady really got a warm reception from the Garden faithful, though. Those kids got rowdy.
- Hey you with the #23 customized "King James" jersey. Yes, you. Not a good look, fella.
- Somebody needs to explain to me what "Banana Shpeel" is.
- Nick Collison has always looked to me like he could be in Gorillaz. And by that I mean he looks like a fuzzy cartoon person.
I ought to get away from my computer before the night runs out, so that'll be all for now. We'll have more to talk about (and, if things go to plan, a new friend!) tomorrow. I'm very disappointed that it didn't end in a victory, but if tonight was any indication, we've got a weird, wonderful 28 games ahead of us.