The New York Knicks begin the 2022-23 season tonight in Memphis, where they’ll take on the Western powerhouse Grizzlies. Tom Thibodeau’s third year in charge sees Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein making their Knick debuts, as New York looks to return to its winning ways of 2021 and avoid repeating whatever 2022 was. After winning their first playoff series since 2015 last spring and pushing eventual champions Golden State in the second round, the Grizzlies hope to advance beyond that for just the second time in franchise history.
That hope took a ding with Jaren Jackson Jr. suffering a stress fracture in his foot that required offseason surgery. Jackson, a.k.a. Latrell Sprewell’s grandson, is still weeks away from participating in 5-on-5s. Dillon Brooks is also likely to miss the game with thigh soreness. Easing the pain: Memphis is stacked with young and accomplished talent, with few as young and none as accomplished as Ja Morant, the NBA’s latest flavor of the month (not as in “passing fad,” but “new and exciting”). Morant seemed to lead the league in
column inches highlights posters Fatheads Vines going viral, finishing sixth in points per game and 15th in assists.
The last five season openers, New York’s starting point guards were Ramon Sessions, Trey Burke, Allonzo Trier, Elfrid Payton and Kemba Walker. In Brunson, the Knicks finally have a backcourt man their opponent has to worry about. They’ll also have Obi Toppin available, a hit-or-miss proposition the past few days. Unfortunately the Knick most likely to cause comment section meltdowns this year, Quentin Grimes, will miss the game with foot trouble.
The Knicks will start Brunson, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, fresh off a well-earned pay raise. The Grizzlies are expected to go with Morant, Desmond Bane, John Konchart, Santi Aldama and Steven Adams. Pay attention to the Knicks’ pace of play. There was a lot of talk about speeding things up — responsibly — and in the preseason even some walking the walk. But as birthdays and holidays are often the death knell of doomed romance, game one of 82 is where the best-laid plans go to die. No doubt the ball will be flying in the opening possessions. But if it’s a five-point game halfway through the fourth, do the Knicks revert to iso-ball?
Might this year mark the debut of Euro Randle? What new element(s) will we see from RJ’s game? How soon before fans find something to gripe about with Brunson? If Hartenstein is a presence in the paint and on the glass, will his ability to make a free throw push Mitch to the bench in late-and-close games? How does Thibodeau manage minutes? Can anyone slow down Morant? Will Bane take another leap to All-Star status? How does Memphis fare while waiting for Jackson to return and re-integrate? Does Adams smell as good as I assume? See you at 7:30, true believers.