5 Things We Learned About the NY Knicks During First Week of Training Camp
The New York Knicks are a team that had a lot of question marks coming into training camp, and the first week has started to give us a hint of the answers we were looking for.
Long-term issues such as whether or not stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire can mesh have yet to be answered, but we've still learnt quite a bit about these Knicks in such a small time.
Ahead of their initial preseason games, things are starting to clear up for the Knicks after the clouding that was the offseason.
Here are the five major things that we've learnt about the 2012-13 Knicks over the last week.
They Are in Shape
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With all the talent available on the Knicks roster, what success will really boil down to is motivation, chemistry and health.
As far as motivation, it appears the Knicks are sorted, as the players took it upon themselves to come into camp ready to play.
With the exception of Rasheed Wallace—who, to be fair to him, has only just come out of retirement—everybody appears to be in shape.
Most of the Knicks have been attending pre-camp workouts for a few weeks beforehand, and it looks like it's paid off.
Along with this, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler have spent the summer playing competitive ball over in London for the Olympics, and Amar'e Stoudemire has been working hard on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon.
Most impressively, Raymond Felton—who was heavily criticised for his weight last season—has come into camp looking as slim as ever, having lost over 20 pounds over the summer.
These Knicks are clearly focused on the task at hand, and have spent the offseason preparing for this greatly important season.
Melo Is Willing to Change
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As much as it has been important for the Knicks to build a strong supporting cast this offseason, what matters the most is the play of their core players.
None more so than Carmelo Anthony, as the hopes of the Knicks rest squarely on his shoulders after the blockbuster trade that brought him to New York almost two years ago.
With that in mind, Anthony's wise words on media day should be music to the ears of Knicks' fans:
I’m done trying to score 35, 40 points to win the basketball game. I don’t want that role anymore. I can do it. That’s what I do. But in order for this team to be successful, for guys we have right now, we need a more well-rounded team. If I have to sacrifice on the offensive end, I’m willing to do it. It’s easy for me to sit here and say it. But this year it’s going to be locking in and doing it as the leader of this team. (via the New York Post)
Melo has long been considered a poor teammate on the offensive end due to his volume-shooting ways, but if he can tweak his game slightly as he says, the Knicks will be much better off.
If Melo can focus less on scoring and more on the team, chemistry will be much easier to come by, and he'll finally be able to play alongside Amar'e Stoudemire.
STAT and Melo aren't a perfect fit, but they can make things work, especially if they continue to adopt this kind of attitude.
Raymond Felton Will Start at Point Guard
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Though most expected Raymond Felton to be the starter once it was all said and done, things still weren't 100 percent set in stone until the first day of camp rolled along.
It was there that Mike Woodson confirmed that Felton would likely be the starter, telling reporters the following (via ESPN):
At the end of the day, it's still about the team. I don't think anybody else on this team is going to care who starts, but Raymond will probably be our starter.
Being the youngest (and by some distance) of the Knicks' three point guards, it makes sense for Felton to get the biggest role, especially in the regular season.
As a tested veteran who's been there and done that, Jason Kidd should still play a big role late in games (potentially even as a shooting guard) and will probably see increased minutes in the playoffs, too.
35-year-old Argentinian rookie, Pablo Prigioni, is more of a wild card, really, and though he clearly knows how to run an offense, it's unlikely that he'll get a chance without injuries playing a part.
J.R. Smith Wants to Start Too
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With Iman Shumpert out until possibly January, and Ronnie Brewer missing the bulk of the preseason, the Knicks are suddenly looking very thin at shooting guard.
J.R. Smith is currently the only healthy veteran off-guard listed on the roster, and is expected to play an increased role, at least until everyone else joins him in full health.
Though Brewer could be back in time for the Knicks' season opener in Brooklyn, Smith has already made it clear that he would prefer to be the team's starter himself.
As a career sixth man, it's easy to picture Smith at his best as a change-of-pace option off the bench, but starting him could bring some benefits, too.
Smith is a much better outside shooter than Brewer or Shumpert, and playing alongside Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will give him space to get his shots off with ease.
This will work both ways, as Smith's presence will also help to spread the floor for STAT and Melo, a luxury they didn't have with Landry Fields last season.
So long as he retains his defensive form from last season, Smith may not be such a downgrade on that end of the floor, either, making him an intriguing option to start.
Health Is a Priority
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After the Knicks' extreme injury crisis early in the campaign last season, Mike Woodson knows all too well the importance of health going into the season.
Unfortunately, injuries to guard pairing Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer have been out of his control, but he's doing his best to keep those he does have available to him ready for the start of the season.
As much as we'd like to see an intense training camp, consideration needs to be taken for the Knicks' more aging and injury-prone players, and Coach Woodson has done this so far.
The Knicks are taking no risks with the strained calf Marcus Camby picked up the other day, and are keeping him out of action for 7-10 days as a precaution.
Woodson had this to say about the importance of health for Camby and his other veterans this preseason (via NY Daily News):
We just got to make sure that their bodies are ready to run up and down and play. They’re not big-minute players anymore. But they know how to play and are battle-tested. The core guys are carrying the load. But all good teams need a good supporting cast.
Along with this, the following tweet from the New York Post's Marc Berman also sheds an interesting light on the team's careful activity in camp:
Woodson wanted today's practice brief - 90 minutes. When Ama're (sic) reemerged from locker to work more, Woodie yelled, "Get out of here."
We all know more than a few of these players have suffered major injuries in the past, and though it it feels unsatisfying to hear of minimal camp sessions, at times they're the smart thing to do.