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Preseason: Knicks 84, 76ers 77- "I like the passing even if they can't convert."

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Rich Barnes

The Sixers, especially in their incomplete preseason form, suck. The Knicks may or may not suck themselves, but the Sixers definitely suck, and I suspect that had something to do with New York playing their best basketball of the preseason. "Best" is relative, since the Knicks still performed poorly, but, like Bronx Chica, I saw a lot of fine passing, even if it produced more misses and turnovers than baskets. Just a few notes:

- For a full six minutes to start the game, the Knicks' entire offense was Samuel Dalembert. He's demonstrated decent touch a few paces from the rim -- things get dicier when he strays farther. I like Dalembert's shot-blocking, I like that he's trying to chase down rebounds, and I like that he's at least thinking about passing from the high post.

- Much of the same could be said, to an extent about Quincy Acy. He kept busting ass tonight, which is good. I just don't see much refinement in Acy's game. He seems to have the timing of the Triangle's weak-side hand-offs down, but his attempts at screens serve no use and he gets turned around far too easily below the rim. I don't trust that jumper as much as he does, either. Terrific work on the offensive glass, though. He pursues every carom, which is enough to earn him minutes. I just wish he could do more with the loose balls he collects.

- Amar'e Stoudemire's jumpers didn't fall, but he took them in rhythm. His best looks came when he carved out good deep post position and waited for the ball to reverse and reverse back to find him. I'd still like to see him make better assessments of the defense down there-- attack when he's single-covered and pass out (of the post, not of consciousness) when there's help. He did make one of those flash-to-the-high-post-from-the-weak-side-then-hit-a-guard-cutting-backdoor feeds to Tim Hardaway Jr. for a foul, which was terrific.

- Jason Smith is a goddamn master of that pass already. Like, he threw it several times in a row, which probably wouldn't happen against any defense but the preseason Sixers', but I was still impressed. Smith could not miss his pick-and-pop jumper for several minutes, then he couldn't hit it in the second half. And he should absolutely never put the ball on the floor. Dude can't really bend enough at the waist to do anything with his dribble.

- Smith doesn't always move his feet to protect the rim, but he does box out. Tough to do both, so as long as you do one...

- Amar'e, I thought, DID move his feet pretty well. That one moment Brandon Davies was wide-ass open under the rim was partially his fault, but I liked his one-on-one efforts.

- Clyde: "Fisher looks like a guy who does yoga." Has Clyde mentioned yoga during every game this season? Is Clyde in the pocket of Big Yoga?

- Y'all pointed out to me that the Knicks had 12 assists on 14 field goals in the first half (22/30 on the game). The former is a silver lining for the latter, and it all supports Bronx Chica. The ball moved. It didn't always get the Knicks easy buckets, but it moved.

- Mike Breen-- discussing an interview segment in which Iman Shumpert admitted to being a sensitive grouch last season-- proclaimed that Shump is "playing with that joy again," and I'm inclined to agree. I'm probably projecting some, but Shump looks to me like he's engaged on defense, not just swiping. And he's shooting those one-dribble jumpers off hand-offs with confidence AND getting to the rim some to finish(!) off one foot(!).

- No Cole Aldrich. No Pablo Prigioni. No Travis Outlaw. Minimal Travis Wear. No Cleanthony Early until the last couple minutes, which gave Clyde the opportunity to say "Early coming late" and grin so hard you could hear it through the broadcast.

- When J.R. Smith made quick extra passes, great things happened. When he dribbled even a little bit, mostly bad things happened.

- Tim Hardaway Jr. has already shown such a great feel for the two-man game, guys. No matter the teammate serving as the axis, he's done a fine job each game weaving around a high-post teammate to accept a short pass and get a good shot or a fake off within the window of freedom.

- I definitely buy the "he tries, he's just not very athletic" scouting report we heard about Jose Calderon's defense. He does not get beat for lack of effort, but he does get beat.

- I see you pulling down 7 boards in 27 minutes in a preseason game, Melo.

- A lot of the Knicks' turnovers come from telegraphed entry passes. Opponents know what's coming in the initial sideline Triangle, so the guards must either get those passes off with haste or develop more rapport with the bigs to sneak passes through waving arms, beat fronts, and utilize ball-fakes in tandem. Ideally, all of the above. That takes time.

- I guess Shane Larkin looked better in this one. He still did a lot of lifting off a step too far from the rim, but I loved the way he got after loose balls and picked his spots to gamble in passing lanes. I need to remind myself sometimes that he's basically a rookie.

Baby steps. The Knicks aren't even close to resembling a good, coherent team, but I think they're making progress and I think they're enjoying each other's company. Before you bake, you've gotta grease the cookie sheet.