The New York Knicks ended their pre-season schedule last night with a 116-111 win at the Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets. The win ends their warm up campaign with a promising record of 4-2.
Having picked up wins against other Eastern Conference opponents, the Wizards, the Celtics and the Nets twice, team president Phil Jackson will be pleased with his re-branded roster.
The games that really matter begin next Tuesday in Cleveland against the current champs. Although no one is expecting the Knicks to win their opening game of the season, Knicks fans will be hoping that if they do lose game number 1, that it doesn’t set the tone for the season. There are many reasons for the New York faithful to be optimistic.
One of the major talking points of the pre-season has been the rise of Brandon Jennings. Coming off a rough couple of seasons due to injury, which included a stint in the D-League and half a season with the Orlando Magic, the reputation of Jennings was somewhat lost. Phil Jackson took a gamble in signing the PG to play a sixth man role on the team. What Jackson didn’t realise though, is that Jennings would become a fan favourite incredibly quickly.
His passion and energy in the pre-season, particularly in the win against the Washington Wizards, showed the fans that he will be leading the Knicks bench, and will do a very good job at it. He is already considered an early favourite for the Sixth Man of The Year award, as he looks to play a similar role to 3-time winner of the award, Jamal Crawford, by being a leading scorer off the bench. In a contract year, Brandon Jennings will certainly be giving his everything in the hope of earning a big pay day next year.
Another positive for New York is that their Latvian giant, Kristapz Porzingis, looks even better than last season! His jump shot looks comfortable, he looks stronger in the post, and his defence is looking very good. He is playing with confidence, and no small part of that is down to the leaders around him. His relationship with Joakim Noah is a very exciting one, as Noah has been seen talking to Porzingis during time-outs, no doubt giving the sophomore advice. Their on-court chemistry looks good, and will continue to develop. The mutual respect between the two bigs is a major factor in their early success. Carmelo Anthony spoke out this week telling the media to not expect too much from Porzingis in the early stages of his career, however if the young Latvian continues to improve, he may well exceed everyone’s already high expectations.
Although Jennings and Porzingis have been particular stand out players, the whole roster looks promising. Courtney Lee has been proving his value to the team with some consistent scoring from the shooting guard position.
Carmelo Anthony has looked good as always, getting the whole team involved on the offensive end with good ball movement, as well as scoring his fair share of points. Melo’s best seasons of his career have been coming off the back of Olympic appearances. He took the Nuggets to the Conference finals the year after Beijing, and then carried the Knicks to 54 wins after London 2012.
Joakim Noah is showing signs of his old self with an incredibly high level of hustle and energy. His defence has been good, and will only improve with more game time. His offence has also been impressive, and his chemistry with Porzingis will be the reason for that. Noah is certainly working his way back to his best after some difficult seasons with injury.
Knicks fans will be relieved to hear the news that Derrick Rose has been proven innocent in his court case this week, and will return to New York today. He missed all but one pre-season game due to a rape trial against himself and two friends. Now he has been proven innocent, he can move his attention back to basketball. He is short of warm up time, which means he will be playing catch-up when the season begins.
Finally, the Knicks bench have looked promising during pre-season. Despite most of their bench being undrafted, the young players off the bench have proved their worth to the team, and can provide a healthy contribution to the loaded starting line-up.
Europeans Hernangomez and Kuzminskas have made a positive transition from the European game to the NBA. Having both played in the Olympics just a few months ago, they have had no shortage in preparation for their NBA debuts.
Kyle O’Quinn has staked a claim for the backup center position with some strong and competitive performances also.
The Knicks look impressive heading into the regular season. Although the expectation isn’t as high as it could be, the new-look roster will be looking to prove critics wrong and bring playoff basketball back to Madison Square Garden.
Confidence appears to be high, and the fans will be hoping to see their Knicks be very competitive in the East. The roster is looking sharp, and the loaded starting line-up looks to have a strong second unit behind them.
Can they make the playoffs? I certainly hope so.