Hope in Gotham? Knicks Topple Sixers, 113-102The New York Knicks pushed their preseason record to 4-1 with a 113-102 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, a contest broadcast by NBA TV, with the announcing duties handled by Gus Johnson and Walt Frazier. The Sixers played without Allen Iverson (sprained left hand) and Samuel Dalembert (hamstring injury) and the Knicks did not have the services of Stephon Marbury (right foot injury). Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson led the Knicks with 19 points each, while Chris Webber and Kyle Korver topped the Sixers with 17 points apiece. Steve Francis added 13 points for the Knicks, all of them in the first half; he also had seven assists and six rebounds, turning in his best performance in the preseason in Marbury's absence. This brings up perhaps the Knicks' biggest problem: their two most talented players, Francis and Marbury, basically play the same game--(over) dribble and shoot--and their games do not complement each other. It would seem that for the Knicks to achieve maximum success, one of them will eventually have to be benched or traded. Meanwhile, the Knicks have other guards who take up a lot less salary cap room but can be quite productive: Robinson shot 5-7 from three point range, while rookie Mardy Collins made all four of his field goal attempts and had 11 points and four assists in 14 minutes of playing time.
Renaldo Balkman, Isiah Thomas's surprise selection with the 20th overall pick in the draft, scored six points in 16 minutes of action. Frazier said that Balkman "is becoming a crowd favorite because of his vivacity." At halftime, Fred Carter added, "Renaldo Balkman really impresses me. Why? Because he brings a lot of energy off of the bench and he has a way of finding open spots on the floor...he does a great job." While many people have mocked Thomas for drafting Balkman so highly, the simple fact is that Balkman can play and will be productive; it will be interesting to look back on this draft in five years and see if that can be said of all of the players drafted ahead of him, let alone those taken after him.
The Knicks are averaging over 106 ppg in the preseason after scoring less than 96 ppg during the 2006 regular season. As I mentioned during my Tuesday appearance on BetUS.com Radio, the preseason means different things to different teams: teams like the Heat (1-4), the Spurs (1-3) and the Nets (1-4) have stable rosters, expect to be playing deep into May or June and are obviously not placing a big emphasis on winning preseason games; on the other hand, teams like the Knicks, Raptors (5-0) and Warriors (4-0) have made significant roster and/or coaching changes and need to play their key players substantial minutes in the preseason. As you can see from the records of these teams, the NBA's preseason standings look upside down--perhaps that is why NBA.com does not even post them. So, a few October wins for the Knicks are no reason to start having parades. Still, it is interesting to see how the Knicks play under new coach Isiah Thomas--and who is getting playing time. Thomas believes in an offense he calls "Quick," a melding of the philosophies of John Wooden, Bobby Knight and Tex Winter that Thomas implemented during his stint as Pacers coach. As I noted in one of my posts about this year's summer league play, Jermaine O'Neal and Brad Miller blossomed into All-Stars under Thomas' guidance. "The thing you notice about this offense," Johnson commented, "is that the ball barely hits the floor."
Eddy Curry showed off some of the post moves that he learned this summer from Knicks' Assistant Coach Mark Aguirre, scoring 10 points on 4-4 field goal shooting in 22 minutes of playing time. It's nice to see guys like Aguirre, Moses Malone and Henry Bibby on the bench; the latter two are assistant coaches to the Sixers' Maurice Cheeks and I think that the presence of such "old school" players represents excellent learning opportunities for younger players, provided that they are receptive to the instruction and guidance that Aguirre and the others provide.
Frazier noted that true, back to the basket centers are becoming a dying breed and that the NBA seems like it is becoming a 6-7 and under league--that is a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but recent NBA rules changes and new points of emphasis definitely favor smaller, quicker offensive players. Frazier added that 7-footers like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett play power forward instead of center because of their versatile skills and that "they have added a new dimension to the game."
As for the Sixers, they are so dependent on Iverson to score and create scoring opportunities for his teammates that it is difficult to say much about them regarding a game in which Iverson didn't play, other than the obvious: whether or not they will be a good team with Iverson, they are clearly not a very good team without him.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:12 AM