The New York Knicks played their first preseason game Thursday night against the Washington Wizards. While it's early to read too closely into players' performances, the game did provide insight into several questions and concerns surrounding the team.
Coach Woodson tinkered with different substitution patterns and player combinations throughout the game. He gave the fans and media an idea as to how he might use certain players, allowing others to attempt to define or expand their roles with the team.
Many of the returning players appeared to be in excellent shape and picked up where they left off last season. Some of the newest Knicks thrived in their first game in orange and blue, while those on the roster bubble struggled in limited playing time.
Here are the most intriguing preseason game stat lines for the Knicks so far.
With Iman Shumpert recovering from a torn ACL and Ronnie Brewer on the shelf after his own knee surgery, Coach Woodson may play Jason Kidd at the 2 spot for stretches. That would open up minutes at point guard for Prigioni and the Argenitian showed Thursday night that he is up to the task.
The oldest rookie in NBA history—Prigioni is 35—contributed 14 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and just one turnover in 21 minutes of play against the Wizards.
Prigioni was known primary as a ball handler and set-up guy during his career in Argentina and Spain. Last year, he shot just 29 percent on three-pointers for Caja Laboral of the ACB League. But the veteran caught fire against the Wizards, connecting on four of eight attempts from downtown.
J.R. Smith indicated early in training camp that he wanted to be a starter this season, so he did not take it lightly when Coach Woodson made it clear on Tuesday that he would remain the team's sixth man. “I think disappointed is an understatement,’’ Smith said of his status, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Smith's maturity and commitment to team basketball have been called into question throughout his career and it was uncertain how the mercurial shooting guard would respond to the news that he will not be a starter this season.
Smith made a statement by playing with determination and focus Thursday night. He delivered an excellent all-around performance, scoring 20 points on 8-11 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out six assists in 28 minutes of play.
Mychel Thompson is considered one of the favorites to land the final spot on the Knicks' roster. Thursday night he had a golden opportunity to prove he belonged, when Coach Woodson inserted him into the starting lineup due to injuries to Iman Shumpert, Ronnie Brewer and James White.
The second-year shooting guard failed to impress in 16 minutes of play. He appeared shaky with the ball in his hands and missed all five of his shots from the field—four of which were three-point attempts.
Fortunately for Thompson, the other main candidates to for the final roster spot were not much better. Chris Copeland, the team's most productive player in Summer League, scored three points on 1-3 shooting, turning the ball over four times and racking up five fouls in 15 minutes. Long distance-specialist John Shurna also added three points on 1-3 shooting in 16 minutes.
The Knicks stroked it from behind the arc Thursday night, knocking down 18 of 33 attempts. Last season's league-leader in three-point shooting-percentage Steve Novak connected on all seven of his three-point shots.
What was most encouraging about the Knicks' hot shooting was that the vast majority of the shots were open looks resulting from good ball movement.
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will provide the Knicks' with plenty of scoring in the post and on the wing. In order to keep defenses honest and give their all-star forwards room to operate, New York's perimeter players will need to hit from outside with some degree of consistency.
Typically, a few minor injuries in training camp would not be cause for concern, but this Knicks team has several players in their late 30's and star forward Amar'e Stoudemire has a history of knee and back problems. It will be a challenge to get this squad through the season.
Stoudemire suffered a bone bruise when he banged knees with Chris Copeland in practice earlier in the week. According to Nate Taylor of the New York Times, Amar'e would have played if it were a regular season game. Prior to the game, Stoudemire assured MSG Network's Tina Cervasio that he will be in the lineup when the Knicks meet the Celtics Saturday night.
Thirty-eight year-old Marcus Camby did not make the trip to Washington after straining his calf during practice last week. Camby is expected to be out for seven to 10 days and will not compete in the game Saturday night either.