On the seventh day, God rested. On the eighth, after sleeping in and a bit of tidying up, they found a bit of extra joy and promise lying about. Never one for waste, God did some quick mental math, then decided to ship the extra bits to 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, York, 10001, for the 21st of October, 2022. Thus it came to pass that the New York Knicks won their home opener 130-106 over the Detroit Pistons, the rare night where everything went right. Coupled with the spirit shown Wednesday forcing Memphis to overtime, it’s fair to feel New York’s future pointing — if ever so precariously — up.
RJ Barrett came flying out of the gate like a man running from his past. Maybe he was, after his 3-for-18 Starksmare in Tennessee. Especially impressive was that Barrett was his usual insistent self pushing to the rim, but showed better touch and decision-making on those drives, two focal points of his offseason.
Jalen Brunson looked born to ball beneath the Broadway lights, which he kind of sorta was? It’s already plain as day how different a good point guard looks from a placeholder. 48 minutes holds a lotta subatomica: whether he’s dancing deftly along the baseline without losing his dribble, deking guards on the perimeter or stopping, spinning and scoring in the paint, Brunson appears to be the genuine article. By the end of this game he’d tied the franchise record for most assists to begin a Knick career without a turnover (15), previously set by Miles McBride. Were we ever so young?
The game was over by the half, with the Knicks up by 20 having blitzed their way to 72 points. Isn’t that something? An organization that’s thirsted for stars for nearly 50 years and always come up short, lambasted of late after losing out on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, and where do they find themselves now? With an altogether alternate approach to ascendance, a depth of quality and quality of depth not often seen in these parts. Six Knicks made multiple 3s on the night; the team finished with 29 assists and just 12 turnovers. An enemy who strikes from every direction is a foe who cannot be defeated.
Headlines blare but briefly: Durant has missed most of Brooklyn’s games since signing there, spent the summer like George Costanza failing to get fired and learned no team was interested in a king’s ransom for a 34-year-old; Irving asked for permission to look for a trade, got it, found little interest other than the league’s other bicoastal curio and opted back in with the Nets; Mitchell has done everything but wear a Knicks jersey in public to make it clear he wants to play for them and is a free agent in a couple years.
Julius Randle will make about half what Durant does the next four years. But as was the case in Memphis, he played with pace and purpose while shooting well from the floor and from deep. When Randle doesn’t suck, he’s pretty great.
Mitchell Robinson stayed out of foul trouble, meaning he and Isaiah Hartenstein split the minutes pretty much 50/50. 14 points (on seven shot attempts), 16 rebounds and five stocks over 48 minutes of rim protection is a fine yield from your bigs.
Ah, but the bench. The bench! As has been the case since Detroit shipped Derrick Rose to New York, the Knick bench was a cut above its counterpart. You almost feel sorry for opponents who roll out 7 or 8 rotation players, until your boot-stomped heart remembers the basketball gods haven’t done a damn thing for your team since the frozen envelope. Then you don’t mind twisting the knife. Another undeniable twist is Obi Toppin setting-up rather than slamming down an alley-oop. Cam Reddish does introduce a little anarchy to this team. Over two games so far, it’s been good for this team.
Rose, Obi, Hartenstein and Immanuel Quickley were all on their A-games. Here’s a fun palindrome: New York’s bench scored 64 points of 46 shots. 15 Knicks saw playing time, which tells you either they blew their opponent out or Tom Thibodeau’s been replaced with a pod. Two made their Knick debuts: Svi Mykhailiuk and Trevor Keels, also making his NBA debut. This game really was a joyous romp from start to finish. The joy persisted even after the final buzzer. Will always have love for the Fortnite Mamba.
Quoth charluca: “Everyone played well.” Sometimes that’s a cliché, sometimes it’s akin to a participation trophy, but in this case it’s truth. Thanks to their collectivism, no Knick played more than 28 minutes, meaning everyone should be fresh for the next game Monday vs. Orlando.
The Knicks can’t carry over any of the 23 extra points from their margin of victory. If they bring the same spirit, tempo and togetherness they did last night, they could be 2-1 and feeling pretty good. On the same date last year the Knicks were 2-0 and rolling along nicely when they lost at home to Orlando, an ill omen that hatched weeks later. Tune in to see if the new now is more then or more now.