Expect Derek Fisher to loosen the reins on the Knicks' running game this season. Via ESPN:
"We want guys to understand that it's OK to go down and try to score as quickly as possible. We're not running to set up an offense, we're running to go score," Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. "[This] hopefully just continues to free them from the idea that we have to run the offense a certain way as opposed to just taking what the defense gives you. We're trying to make sure they understand that."
Some of that change can surely be attributed to the personnel changes since last season. It's more difficult to consistently push the tempo when you rely on bigs like Jason Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire to manufacture offense. Give credit where it's due, though: Fisher has seen where his opportunities for improvement lay and adjusted. Through three preseason games the Knicks have been noticeably quicker to look for scoring opportunities in transition, and as a team boast a top-five true shooting percentage at 56.4%. Last season the Knicks ranked last in the NBA in fast break points at just 8.4 per game and have more than doubled that so far this preseason, scoring 17.3 of their points per game on the break. The message that Fisher has been pushing since training camp seems to be sinking in.
What's fascinating about the Knicks' ability to control the tempo of the game is that they aren't doing so by forcing turnovers. New York is last in the league in steals with 6 per game. The team is finding their success by running hard after defensive rebounds and making smart outlet passes.
It's not lost on any of us that Jerian Grant started both of those breaks. That kid is damn good.
It's worth noting that three preseason games is hardly a large enough sample size to qualify a fundamental change in the Knicks' scoring philosophy. The real test will come thirty games into the regular season, when tired legs will test the team's will. Still, the early results are encouraging. The Knicks would love to make the playoffs this season and surprise their critics, and boosting their offense to respectable levels will only help the team reach that goal. The pressure will be on the Knicks' coaching staff to motivate the team to continue to push the tempo.