Who I liked (who surprised):
Despite a mum start to the preseason, Toney Douglas’ play surged during the Knicks two game winning streak against the Nets and Wizards. During that stretch, Douglas demonstrated the ability to be a Rajon Rondo type defensive impact player with his tenacity and sticky fingers. Douglas’ also showed admirable resolved. Despite struggling with his shot early in the preseason, he did not lose is confidence in his shot and helped to lead the Knicks past the Wizards and Nets with two 20 point performances.
Generally speaking though, it should be no surprise that players like Douglas, Landry Fields, and Wilson Chandler had solid (if unspectacular) preseasons. Chandler appears to be near full health and has the most on court familiarity with D’Antoni’s style of play. The same can also be said about Douglas, to an extent. But also Douglas and Fields on court maturity and poise is indicative of having had better seasoning during their college playing days, being that both are the rarest of modern NBA players who actually finish their college playing careers as seniors.
Who I didn’t like (who disappointed):
Despited being touted as a premier shooter and the player on the Knicks roster most likely to emerge as the Robin to Stoudemire’s Bat Man, Danilo Gallinari failed to measure up to the billing. Gallinari had two good offensive showings- one over in Milan Italy and the other against the Celtics in Hartford Connecticut. But aside from those performances Gallo’s preseason output was underwhelming (.350 FG % and .313 3pt FG %). For a player touted as an elite shooter and a bear by his head coach, Gallinari’s inconsistent shooting stroke, tendency to camp out on the perimeter and seeming reluctance to drive or use his size/moves in the post undermine the full offensive value Gallinari can purportedly provide the Knicks.
It should be no disappointment that many of the young promising talent like Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Anthony Randolph struggled at times and during stretches in the preseason. They will likely do so during the regular season. The reason being IMHO, that the three are still in the process of defining and refining their identity as players and within the offensive scheme run by coach D’antoni. But also it should be noted that part of the fault lies in the organization continuing to thread water.
Although the Knicks purport that they are now ready to go forward and operate as an organization determined to play winning and competitive basketball, the Knicks once again have themselves positioned in two places at once. By that I mean, that they obtained a franchise player who brings heightened expectation. Yet the Knicks also brought in promising yet raw potential, currently being discussed as much for their value in swinging another set of trade for coveted player elsewhere. As a result the potential and cap space flexibility afforded by the team’s stable of youth presents more challenge to a coaching staff expected to coach to win now rather than principally develop players.
The conundrum lies in the fact that it is generally the case that franchise players are complimented by established if limited veterans who can compliment and augment that Franchise players strength while masking his weaknesses. Amare’ did not inherit that situation in New York. Still in a way, while the set up of Amare’s supporting cast presents a challenge to the coaching staff, the flexibility positions the Knicks to follow the example of the newly minted Heat, since the Knicks have structured the salaries they’ve acquired in a manner that allows them to players in succeeding free agent markets. Still the challenge of Walsh’s long view cap space structuring may result in a challenged if not frustrated project for a Knicks coaching staff expected to win now.
What I Iiked (from the preseason):
Better shot blocking, better defensive pressure on the perimeter from our point guards, generally better defensive effort overall from the team. Lastly, finally having a star player on the roster who can finish inside and above the rim and will draw fouls with the ability to show up in crunchtime. Credit the return of the Knicks block party to the length and athleticsm of Mozgov, Stoudemire, Turiaf and Randolph who led the Knicks in blocks during the preseason. Credit the steal to the sticky fingers Douglas with two steals per game and Felton, Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov and Stoudemire who each averaged about a steal a game for the preseason. What more can we say about STAT an acronym that refers Poise, Size, Talent and ability to statistically impact the offensive statistical sheet.
What I didn’t like (from the preseason):
When the SSOL gets SLOwed down it becomes SOL (Shyt Outta Luck). Often times after the Knicks got the ball up the court the ball would mostly rotate around the perimeter. The pick guy in D’Antoni’s P&R sets waded at the top of the key and few if any rebounders were in the paint to provide the Knicks 2nd shot opportunities. Often times the Knicks would settle for the 3 pointer after the first push up court or first set of passes around the perimeter. Many times the shots taken were contested. Rarely, save for Amare’ forays, Amare’ and Mozgov on the P&R, or the occasional drive from Gallinari, Douglas or Felton would the knicks get into the paint. That has to be disconcerting for a team that will need an aggressive and solid 2nd option to get to the paint and the line to compliment Stoudemire on the court.
What’s worse was the Knicks anemic showing on the boards – no knicks player averaged more than 6 boards per game during the preseason. The Knicks lost the battles on the defensive glass by about 5.6 boards per game a stat that is also reflected in the opposing teams clear advantage over the Knicks on the offensive glass to a clip of about 6.5 boards per game. Either the Knicks disappointment comes from the Knicks failure to put forth additional effort on both sides of the glass or from the relatively light arses on the roster. The knicks struggles on the boards: took away from: defensive stops that were nullified when opposing teams secured 2nd shot opportunities; inhibited the Knicks from getting a jump on their running game and prevented the Knicks from getting second shot opportunities on the offensive end.
What Needs to Happen:
Occasionally during the preseason the Knicks would do a good job of gang rebounding. The Knicks would also on occasion keep the offense in motion by cutting and moving beyond the initial offensive push. In those instances good things such as successful backdoor cuts would result. Sadly, that was not the norm in the preseason. Because the Knicks are still in the process of incorporating new players and many of the new Knicks are still in the process of defining their offensive roles/identities on the team, consistent effort on the boards and on the defensive end must be the norm. Commitment to improving the Knicks production on the boards will be key to insuring that defensive stops don’t get wasted, the SSOL offense gets off to the quick start it was intended to capitalize on. Conversly, when the SSOL offense does stall the knicks could better utilize the motion they used in the preseason to get cutters open looks and keep defenses from resting on the perimeter.