First: The Knicks will play a basketball game with a scoreboard and refs and a ticketed audience and everything tonight. I'm over here soiling m'britches with excitement.
Next: Mike Woodson has named his starting lineup for the evening, but just for the evening:
Ray, Pablo, Carmelo, Bargs, Tyson will start tonight. #Knicks— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 9, 2013
That's a lineup I'd be inclined to try out if I were coach, so cool! Of course, we already know it's not what Woodson has in mind long-term, at least not right now. Speaking from today's practice in Rhode Island, Woodson reiterated that he intends to establish a first unit including a more prototypical "shooting guard" alongside Raymond Felton instead of a second point guard. He's not going with such a lineup in Providence because J.R. Smith is still recovering from knee surgery and will be ready by preseason's end at the absolute earliest and because Iman Shumpert isn't quite where Woodson wants him to be physically. Therein lies a bit of news, via Marc Berman:
Woodson said part of Shumpert’s developmental program was shut down this summer because of his knees, and he appears worried about Shumpert’s durability.
"He’s been beat up a little bit,’’ Woodson said. "Could be he tried to work too hard. He’s been on and off with our developmental program. When his shoulder went out [in camp], I was, ‘Damn, here we go again.’ He’s had some [time] where his knee has been sore. ‘’
Shump is healthy and will play tonight, but I suppose Woodson isn't yet confident enough in his durability or fitness or something to commit to him as a starter. And while Shump will have an early shot at starting because of J.R.'s recovery and suspension, he may lose that role if J.R. outplays him upon return. Woodson's edict that J.R. mustn't start-- not even if the alternative is James White-- has expired:
"I think he’s past that,’’ Woodson said of Smith. "I want him to be past that. Let someone else get the Sixth Man, if he deserves to win the starting job. Last year was last year. He’s capable of defending, [but] that’s the only question I have. I know Iman can defend and he’s still searching for the offense.
"You can go back and forth,’’ Woodson added. "I’m going to let the two fight it out.’’
That's new! Of course, J.R. played a starter's share of minutes last season and was often on the floor in crunch time, so having him in the game for tip-off would change his role only slightly. It's less about who starts and more about who plays the most and who plays with whom and who plays down the stretch and so forth. It's also important to be predictable and consistent so guys can develop rhythms benefiting the team. (If, for instance, playing J.R. more with the starters means he'll take more shots off the catch and fewer off the dribble, I'm all for it). For what it's worth, Shump says he's fine either way.
So, to summarize Woodson's training camp comments about the backcourt: 1. The point-guard tandem is no longer a default, even though it remains a useful option. 2. There is a battle for that starting two-guard spot that we didn't necessarily expect.
But yeah, not tonight. Tonight's lineup will look a bit like something from last year, albeit with an extra 7-footer instead of an extra wing spacing the floor for Carmelo Anthony. After that, who knows? Woodson has a whole preseason to play around. GAME THREAD coming later!