New York Knicks preseason action generally isn't watched with wins, losses or gripping competition in mind—but rather the tales within the games. For example: how offseason additions seem to fit into the system, how much a young player has progressed over the summer or who can emerge from the unknowns to claim a roster spot.
This month, Knicks fans have the opportunity to watch all three. Despite two losses (which couldn't possibly mean any less), various Knicks have had eye-opening performances through three games.
Prior to the Knicks preseason debut against the Boston Celtics, Iman Shumpert spent the majority of camp nursing a shoulder injury he sustained in one of the team's first practices. Oct. 9 came after Shumpert had just a handful of practices under his belt, post-injury. Coach Mike Woodson brought Shumpert in off the bench—something he hadn't done since his rookie campaign.
Shumpert responded with perfection.
He didn't miss from the field, going 7-of-7, including three from beyond the arc. He added three boards and three assists and didn't turn the ball over
Shumpert was definitely crisp to start the year, but it was a thunderous third quarter slam that elicited the loudest crowd reaction.
He finished with 18 points on seven shots in a team-high 25 minutes. Woodson seems to have reservations about re-inserting Shumpert into the starting five this season. He's suggested J.R. Smith is a candidate to hijack his spot—but his debut performance in 2013-14 revealed a slight chip on the swingman's shoulder.
He's made his message clear, at least for now. Woodson has penciled Shumpert in as the starting shooting guard for the team's next exhibition matchup against the Washington Wizards, per ESPN New York. Smith will be forced to serve a five-game suspension that won't begin until he's deemed healthy by league doctors, so Shumpert appears to have the upper hand two weeks into camp.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Oct. 9 at Boston Celtics
As a rookie battling for burn under Mike Woodson, Tim Hardaway Jr. undoubtedly has his work cut out for him. But he, too, put on a stellar shooting performance during the team's Oct. 9 opener.
The 21-year-old opened up the game shooting 5-of-6 and finished 6-of-10 after misfiring on a few late-game heaves—but nailing the one that mattered most. He sank three of his six from outside the three-point line.
Hardaway shared the team lead in minutes with Iman Shumpert at 25, and came away with three rebounds.
The Knicks held a firm lead through the entire second half, but let it slip away in the closing minute, even falling behind by a point with just 10 ticks left. No matter for Hardaway though, as Woodson called the rook's number on a J.R. Smith-esque inbound-fadeaway.
The kid sank the bucket, giving New York a lead they'd never relinquish.
Not a bad first impression for the 24th overall pick. He still has some work to do if he hopes for extended rotation minutes, with Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih all slated to be regulars in the backcourt.
But if Hardaway can add what he brought to the table against Boston, it'll be hard for Woodson to leave him on the pine.
Woodson did say after the game that the rookie will, in fact, be a part of the rotation. It will be interesting to monitor how those backcourt minutes shake out.
Iman Shumpert, Oct. 11 at Toronto Raptors
It was unrealistic to expect Iman Shumpert's perimeter game to remain perfect through the team's second contest against the Toronto Raptors, and it fell flat in the Oct. 12 matchup. Shump missed all four of his three-pointer attempts and finished just 4-of-11 from the field.
But his line that night may have been the most encouraging of the preseason thus far.
The way Shumpert was able to impact the game without the benefit of a working jumper was extremely promising for the Knicks, who hope to rely on the 23-year-old for more than just defending this year.
He developed into a very reliable three-shooter last season by posting a 40-percent clip from deep, but what will the Knicks have in Shumpert if that J does go cold? He showed us last Friday.
He grabbed nine rebounds—four coming on the offensive glass—and came away with three steals on defense. Despite scoring just 10, he posted a plus/minus of plus-12 in the 100-91 loss.
Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. collaborated on the first Party Time—or is it Hardy Time?—fast-break jam of the season, counting for one of Shump's two dimes.
And, truth be told, Shumpert didn't look that bad on offense. His shooting numbers were fairly horrendous, but he was much more involved than he was at any point last year with the ball, and is working to improve his off-the-bounce game.
His shooting line was all out of whack against Toronto, but, thanks to exhibition season, that was almost a good thing. We were able to see what happens to the third-year man when that three-ball is missing, and it was tremendously encouraging.
Toure' Murry, Oct 12 at Boston Celtics
A quick look at Toure' Murry's stat line from Saturday's bout against Boston won't knock you over. He lofted a few too many shots, especially from downtown, and turned the ball over quite a bit.
But Murry still deserves a spot on the 2013-14 Knicks, and his play against the Celts only supports that argument.
In his first extended look of the preseason, Murry was a bit trigger-happy, shooting just 38 percent from the field (8-of-21). But the 6'6" combo guard also did several things that the Knicks can use from the point guard spot. Below are his highlights against Boston in GIF form.
Murry possesses great size and athleticism, which both play to his advantage on the defensive end. Opposing point guards torched the Knicks last season, and Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih are going to suffice as stoppers. Murry is athletic enough to be in that conversation.
With the ball, he has a tight handle and puts a pretty floater on display against Boston Saturday. The outside shot is still a work in progress, but, as seen against the Celtics, there's a ton to Murry's game that should excite Knicks fans.
Murry also grabbed four boards and dished out two assists, filling out the stat sheet nicely in his first prolonged NBA minutes. With some more time, it wouldn't be shocking to see the 23-year-old impress the Knicks staff some more and crack the final 15-man roster.
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
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