There was a preseason game last night, in between all the injurin'. The main thing coming from the Knicks' meeting with the Wizards in Baltimore was a rash of elbow sprains. It sounds like Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert are fine, but I'll keep you updated on how things sounds, because things don't always sound the same. In the meantime, let's talk about the some of the other players:
- Well, actually, a quick word from Shump:
The subtext of that dunk was "I KNOW I'M GOING TO INJURE MY RIGHT ARM SOON BUT IT TURNS OUT THEY GAVE ME ANOTHER ARM AND IT IS A USEFUL ARM SO WORRY NOT, MORTALS!". Shump and Pablo both looked sharp before they had to depart, even if they each got beat a few times by that vicious Washington backcourt.
- Also, yes, that's what the camera angle looked like all night. Once I got over my airsickness, I actually kinda liked it.
- Raymond Felton hardly played, but he hit his threes, and I just think he's quietly looked fit and composed as ever during preseason. Good job, Raymond!
- Tyson Chandler also hardly played, which meant we got our first heavy dose of the budget buddy cop comedy Andrea and Melo 2: Swiss Cheesin'. That frontcourt had some things going for it. Some real things. The space and ball movement created by a group with those two up front (and, later on, two point guards in Pablo and Beno Udrih) was beautiful. Wizards couldn't comfortably help onto Melo, and Bargnani used expertly timed feints to blow past reaching hands and get to the rim (I do wish he'd go up stronger on drives, but his dribble approach is puzzlingly effective). Also, both of those guys played perfectly sound post defense. Like Melo, Bargnani can thwart the average back-down big with footwork and long blockin' arms. So, those were good things.
- The bad things arose when John Wall or Bradley Beal or pretty much anyone who felt like scoring blew past New York's perimeter D and found Melo and Bargnani shriveling on the horizon. It looked like a basketball scene in a movie where the defenders raise their hands and jump and stuff, but do nothing to actually make sports more difficult for the penetrating guard/Air Bud/John Tucker of John Tucker Must Die/I haven't seen any other basketball movies. Melo's good for the "get behind the guy, then swipe" defense while Bargnani's more a proponent of the "step to the side and kinda point at the ball as if to gets its attention and distract it from reaching the basket" defense. Melo and Bargnani gave up many easy buckets, and on the occasions those easy buckets rimmed out, they were in no position to rebound. I suspect that frontcourt will have to score like twelve points per possession to outweigh pitfalls on the other end, and it certainly looked that way Thursday night. Melo and Bargnani are fine when defending men. They are very, violently unfine when defending space.
- Seriously, though Bargnani played nicely when he was in his element. His drives to the rim were fruitful, and he at least tried to pass out of help a few times, even though poor execution and basic preseason miscommunication prevented those plays from working out. I am increasingly convinced Bargnani's form beyond the arc-- especially off the catch-- could use some Hopla attention. It looks...belabored.
- Beno Udrih finally hit some of those mid-range jumpers, which was reassuring, since those seem to be his favorite. He also made it clear that he loves to drive alllll the way under the rim, then kick allll the way out to the perimeter, sorta like a hockey man passing from behind the net. He's got the vision to do it effectively, though one hopes he'll try to finish if he doesn't draw much help.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. is now 9-19 from downtown and 16-33 overall in games in the games played alongside mostly decent units (excluding the New Hampshire game, where he was left to just chuck). He showed off that deeply sexual outside shot on catches and one-dribble pull-ups over Wizards and navigated the floor so splendidly in transition. His ballhandling isn't anywhere near a point guard's, but he can lead a decent fast break, and he's obviously a terror sprinting off the ball. He drew a foul on a dunk attempt off a quick Pablo-esque back cut and scored one highly acrobatic double-clutch layup off a fast break. And while Tim got beat a few times and got lost a few other times, you could tell he was communicating and exerting himself on defense. He made errors of position and adherence to a (pretty sketchy) defensive gameplan, not errors of effort.
- Man, Toure' Murry stands to get buried under the depth at his position (although we've got three injured guards at this very moment), but I hope he makes the team and think he actually might. He looked competent and confident as the lead guard in some not-totally-scrubby units. He shuffles his feet like he's running a drill defensively, and his arms can telescope to like nine feet long in the event he loses a step. I recall Murry gambling a lot in Summer League, but at least last night, he played defense with discipline and active-- but not overeager-- hands. On offense, Murry looked great in transition, showing off an ability to finish with either hand. His halfcourt shot selection wasn't the best, but he did get those contested pull-up twos to fall.
- I like Cole Aldrich and I wish we could have watched him and not Josh Powell (who should no longer be in consideration, but perhaps is), but Ike Diogu's been replicating most of Cole Aldrich's production with some additional benefits. Diogu's neither as tall nor as prone to swatting fools as Aldrich is, but he knows how to plug holes. Against Washington, he contested shots from his own men and from penetrating guards pretty effectively for a guy his height, even sliding to draw a textbook charge on a weird, broken play. Diogu stayed pursuing rebounds, employing his asses for positioning and his armses for snaggling. And while I've enjoyed Aldrich's movement on offense, Diogu brings some of the same pick-and-roll sensibilities with waaaaay more potential to actually put the ball somewhere useful. He has a short jumper (not as much as he thinks he has it, but he does have it), and he's both strong and dextrous enough to find the net or at least a foul when he gets the ball down low. Again, I like Aldrich, I think there's room for a guy who's just very tall and rowdy without much refinement, and I'd be fine with the Knicks keeping both guys if they bail on Jeremy Tyler. If it comes down to Diogu vs. Aldrich, I am Team Diogu. For now, anyway.
- 'Twas a trippy moment when I thought J.R. Smith had healed, arrived in Baltimore, shrunk several inches, stepped surreptitiously onto the floor, lost all his skills, and opted to drive off an Udrih kick out. It was Chris Smith, but it took me a second for some reason.
And that was the game outside of the elbow unpleasantness. The Knicks have the weekend off, then finish exhibition play with games Monday/Wednesday/Friday next week. It's almost time.