Early preseason games make teams look bad. Learning the Triangle offense makes teams look bad. So yeah, the Knicks looked like loose duck shit in their first exhibition game in Connecticut. They had their moments in the Triangle and hung with the feisty Celtics in the first half. Turnover issues and meek transition defense worsened in the second half, and by the end of the thing, the Knicks just weren't running their sets. Everyone was sloppy, like joshgabs said.
- The Celtics were an interesting first opponent for the Knicks. They'd already logged some preseason minutes, and they're making a point this year of playing extremely intense, pressuring defense. And in all the Knicks' body language you could read this sense of "uhhhh this isn't fair, people weren't trying to grab me and take the ball when I was practicing this." Derek Fisher made the point post-game that the Knicks still have to think a lot harder than other teams to run their offense, and you could see the gears turning as guys were making their reads. They lack the fluency and the trust to react to the unexpected. There's a lot of standing and considering and a lot of flailing under duress, which adds up to a lot of turnovers. It's gonna be like this for a while. We knew that.
- Everybody did everything, as expected. Everybody got to post up, everybody got the chance to create from the perimeter. Samuel Dalembert took jumpers. Amar'e Stoudemire shot a three. Shane Larkin and Jose Calderon kicked out from under the rim.
- And here's a good thing: J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. posted up. They both looked solid doing it, too. Tim even got an assist kicking out of a back-down when a double arrived! He found Cleanthony Early for a three up top! It was beautiful!
- Tim was easily the player of the game. He gunned on occasion, but mostly didn't settle. Waited for ball-handlers to stir the defense, used his fakes, got a step, and used his strength and the off-balance defenders to draw contact and get to the line (10-11, which is outstanding in any setting).
- The defense was uniformly horrible. Everyone went under screens and reached and got lost. Dalembert and Amar'e are tall and made some nice recovery blocks, at least.
- Actually, Travis Wear looked weirdly nimble at that end. He looked weirdly great overall. Wear showed the range to and footwork to be a productive weak-side high post guy and worked that two-man game like a pro on a few trips down the floor. Earned the Knicks some possessions with his hustle, too. I think I saw enough to want him in Westchester. Is that weird?
- Jose Calderon throws some dazzlingly accurate passes. Not necessarily fancy stuff, just really pinpoint lobs and strong, timely looks to the opposite side of the floor. I'm also pretty sure he was using the college three-point line.
- Pretty much everyone got to play that weak-side high post at one point or another, and pretty much everyone looked in way too much of a rush to hand the ball off or get a shot up instead of letting a cut or two happen to find someone open around the rim. Although again, the Celtics covered that stuff well and New York didn't exactly have their counters ready.
- Cleanthony Early just doesn't look comfortable dribbling a basketball. Ran the floor nicely in both directions and obeyed spacing rules as well as anyone, but didn't look good when he had to hold the ball for any period of time. Which is okay.
- Carmelo Anthony had a tough time getting clean shots off. He had some success out of the post when the others just let him isolate, but the Celtics brought some extra pressure on him when he was trying to cut to the ball, and the Knicks didn't really know what to do about that. Spacing got totally boned and Melo had to operate out of traffic.
- Pablo Prigioni got really mad at Phil Pressey for some reason, which led to this:
- The Celtics are also tough because all their bigs shoot. Dalembert and Cole Aldrich did the best (still relatively poor) job trying to mind the perimeter, but it was a chore all around.
- Andrea Bargnani's inexplicable ability to up-fake and get a step on guys bought him a couple lovely finishes early on. He looked pretty bad the rest of the night.
- Shane Larkin and Amar'e took two or three tries to get a real pick-and-roll going, but that one side action in which Larkin hit Amar'e in stride and Amar'e avoided committing a charge and dropped in a floater was okay.
- I'm not looking toooooo hard at lineups and subs at this point, but I did find it interesting that Derek Fisher's first ever sub was to replace all the starters (Calderon-Smith-Melo-Bargnani-Dalembert) with a new five-man unit (Larkin-Hardaway-Early-Acy-Stoudemire) mid-way through the first.
- Quincy Acy was a mess. 90% of his defensive activity was just elbowing people, and his footwork and spacing on offense were out of whack. People had to keep telling him where to stand and his screens didn't accomplish much.
- Shane Larkin is among the fastest dribblers I've ever seen, and on several occasions it seemed like he could have gotten to the rim if he hadn't kicked into OH WAIT I'M TRYING TO EARN MINUTES ON A TEAM WITH A VERY SPECIFIC SYSTEM I MUST OBEY mode. Part of learning the rules is knowing when you can break them.
- Travis Outlaw is not...hmm...what's the word...good.
I'm talking too much. It was a preseason game. The Knicks looked awful, but they had their moments. Tim Hardaway Jr. impressed. Travis Wear impressed out of the blue. It was step one. Rematch Saturday. More bloggings between now and then.