2010-11 NBA Preseason: 10 Biggest Goals for the New York Knicks in Training Camp
While most players tend to dislike training camp, it is absolutely necessary heading into the season.
After an eventful summer filled with numerous offseason moves, this revamped Knicks' roster has a lot of uncertainty surrounding them.
With a rather sloppy, yet promising, exhibition game against Armani Jeans Milano out of the way, the Knicks have the next few weeks to work out the kinks as they prepare for a monumental season.
Work Out Minutes, Roles, and Rotations
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First and foremost, D'Antoni will have to figure out the players' roles, their minutes, and the best rotations to use.
Coach D'Antoni tends to use short rotations for his teams. However, with all the talented players on the roster, he may be forced to work out minutes for more players then he's accustomed to using.
Throughout his tenure in the NBA, D'Antoni has typically stuck to six to eight man rotations. This year, it can balloon all the way up to eleven.
It's not easy to balance rotations. Play one player too many minutes, and another might get jealous; cut another player's minutes, and you have a malcontent.
Stoudemire and Felton will get the full gamut of starter's minutes at their respective positions, but it's not clear how the remaining minutes will be distributed.
With a plethora of guards and wing players, each of them will need to step up and show they can make an impact in order to earn some time on the hardwood.
Find Out What The Rookies Are Capable Of
With the 38th and 39th overall picks in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Knicks selected Andy Rautins and Landry Fields.
During Vegas Summer League play, Fields averaged 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. He was one of the standout players of the league and received high praise from nearly all who watched him. If Landry can transition his strong play during summer league to training camp, it is sure to parlay into steady minutes and an important role.
Andy Rautins was a different story. On 32.4 percent shooting, Rautins averaged 5.8 points and grabbed 1.8 rebounds while dishing out 1.4 assists.
Not exactly eye-popping numbers.
Timofey Mozgov, a 7'1" center from Russia, also joined the Knicks over the summer. While little was known of him before the signing, he may play a bigger than expected role for the team this upcoming season.
Mozgov impressed in the Knicks' exhibition game against Armani Jeans Milano. He could potentially be paired with Anthony Randolph in the second unit as he seems like a perfect fit for the up and down style of the Knicks.
Figure Out the Best Way to Utilize Anthony Randolph
While Anthony Randolph exudes potential, he's still a bit of an enigma on this Knicks' roster. This is mainly attributed to his versatility.
Randolph has been labeled as a "point forward", and rightly so. While he's an average passer, Anthony has excellent ball-handling skills for a player of his size, and he can take the ball in transition and terrorize opposing defenses.
Capable of playing either forward spot with limited time at center, Randolph will be expected to play and guard multiple positions.
Even at such a young age, Randolph is arguably one of, if not, the best defensive player on this team.
With consistent playing time, Anthony has the potential to become an elite shot blocker—something the Knicks have sorely lacked over the years. His presence alone could make players think twice about driving the lane.
Due to the limited range on his jump shot, Randolph will likely find himself, more often than not, working in the front-court, rather than lurking along the wings.
If he finds himself occupying the role of sixth-man, his job will be to come in and make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Chemistry is often overlooked when building a team. However, it may be one of the most important things for a team to develop.
The most essential aspect that chemistry encompasses is trust.
If the players don't have faith in one another, then they won't win many games. It's as simple as that.
Players have to believe that when they pass up on a shot to make that extra pass to an open man, that he is able to knock it down; when they give up the baseline to the man they're guarding, help defense will come to seal off the lane; if they lose their man on a pick, their teammate will switch on coverage.
However, chemistry goes beyond trust. If the players do not mesh, it will translate to a train wreck on the court.
Being the main distributor on the squad, Raymond Felton will need to develop impeccable timing with all of his teammates. It's not so different from the way a NFL Quarterback must develop a sense of timing with his receivers.
Once Felton learns the tendencies of his teammates, he should hopefully be able to put the ball into positions for them to excel.
They must work as a cohesive unit and set aside individual goals for team success.
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Swagger (as defined by Meriam-Webster's dictionary): to conduct oneself in an arrogant or superciliously pompous manner; especially : to walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence
The Knicks have lacked swagger ever since Nate Robinson was traded. There are those that say it is overrated, but in reality, it's important for any team to have.
Perfect example? Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Kobe may be as arrogant as they come, but when you're as good as him, you've earned that right. Having that sort of confidence gives the team an aura of invincibility. While they'll lose their fair share of games, if they don't believe they're the better team on any given night, then the box score will reflect those sentiments.
The players must learn to channel their swagger to exude a winning mentality and accountability on the court at all times.
However, too much arrogance is never a good thing.
Take pride when they win, and learn some humility when they lose.
Improve Team Defense
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Finishing 27th overall in defensive efficiency, the Knicks also yielded the highest field goal percentage to opposing teams last year.
Translation? They were a joke on the defensive end.
Even though the Knicks added some solid defensive pieces over the summer, the individual does not trump the team. If the Knicks can't work as a unit, then it makes no difference how good each player is defensively.
One player cannot stop five no matter how good he is.
D'Antoni is infamous for his high-octane, no defense system. However, you can only win so many games trying to outscore your opponent every night.
As the saying goes, defense wins championships.
Establish and Maintain a Sense of Hierarchy
The chain of command will almost always start with the coach, but that's not a given. If a player cannot respect his own coach, then it will only create a rift and put the hierarchy in disarray. However, leadership does not end there.
The co-captains of this Knicks' squad, Amar'e and Felton, need to be vocal and lead by example. Even if Amar'e is one of the most gifted offensive forces in the league, if he doesn't show any effort on the defensive end, it will set off a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team.
When others make mistakes, Stoudemire should be quick to point them out; if he makes a blunder, then he needs to be accountable for his own shortcomings.
Even the second unit requires a leader. They need to have a player that is capable of stepping into the role and guiding the rest of them.
Hone Their Outside Shooting
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In D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" offense, a lot of the system is predicated on spreading the floor with solid shooting from all corners.
The problem is, the Knicks don't have many reliable shooters from long range, with the exception being Danilo Gallinari.
Most of the players on the current roster excel at mid-range. This is not to say they can't shoot the three, but it may not be their strong suit. There are a lot of question marks surrounding some of their best shooters.
Kelenna Azubuike is coming off an injury, so it has yet to be seen how effective he will be; Roger Mason tied his second worst three-point field goal percentage for his career last season; Felton hit a career high 38.5 percent from long range, but it may have just been an aberration, as his career percentage is 32.7 percent; the same goes for Bill Walker and his career high of 43.1 percent.
If they can prove their numbers were not a fluke, then it should help to alleviate any fears of their offense stalling.
After letting Al Harrington walk in free agency, the Knicks don't have any front-court players capable of stretching the floor. Stoudemire, Turiaf, and Randolph can all hit from mid-range, but picturing them trying to hit from behind the arc would make any Knick fan cringe.
Each of the perimeter players must knock down their shots when the opportunity presents itself. After ranking 15 in offensive efficiency last season, the Knicks will have to improve on their pedestrian numbers and it starts with their shooting.
Put Carmelo Anthony and Any Trade Talk in the Rearview Mirror
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With the Knicks being the supposed top destination in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, the rumor mill will continue to spin until he inks an extension.
The Knicks' players cannot allow all the speculation to distract them for the upcoming season.
All they can do is focus on the here and now.
As long as they still don the orange and blue, they can only control what happens while they're still in New York, and let the chips fall where they may.
Set the Focus on the Playoffs
While the Eastern Conference is still considered to be top-heavy, the Knicks must take advantage of the weak landscape.
Strike while the iron is still hot.
The top five playoff seeds will most likely consist of the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Bulls, and Hawks. However, the remaining three seeds are open for the taking.
Reaching .500 and recording their first winning season in nearly a decade should be enough to get them in.
If they can achieve all of the goals mentioned, then the playoffs are within reach.