5 Things We Learned About the New York Knicks During Second Week of Preseason
The New York Knicks played two preseason games during the second week of training camp, and while they were hardly in regular-season form, there was plenty of insight to be gleaned from their victories over the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics.
Mike Woodson is implementing a new offensive system and different defensive principles during his first training camp as head coach of the Knicks. He is also using the preseason to experiment with various lineups in an attempt figure out what player combinations are most effective together.
Knicks fans and the media had the opportunity to assess the conditioning of players like Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton. They also had their first look at the oldest rookie in NBA history, Pablo Prigioni, and the players battling for the final roster spot.
Here are five things we learned about the New York Knicks during the second week of preseason.
5. Chris Copeland Has the Inside Track on the Final Roster Spot
The Knicks have 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts for the 2012-2013 season. Assuming Rasheed Wallace rounds into shape, he will be the 14th, leaving one roster spot available for the remaining six players invited to training camp.
Oscar Bellfield and Henry Sims are long shots to make the team, and Chris Smith is out for several months after injuring his knee. Mychel Thompson and John Shurna failed to impress during the Knicks' two preseason games.
Chris Copeland was the big story in the Knicks 98-95 overtime victory over the Boston Celtics Saturday night. After not playing in the first half—Woodson apparently forgot about him—he responded with 21 points in the second half, 18 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The 6'8'' forward thrived in the pick-and-roll and attacked the basket with gusto, earning 13 trips to the foul line. In overtime, he sealed the win by grabbing an offensive rebound and calmly sinking two free throws to put the Knicks up by three with 11 seconds remaining.
4. Pablo Prigioni Can Give the Knicks Valuable Minutes
Pablo Prigioni was an afterthought for most Knicks' fans during an active offseason. The long-time veteran of the Spanish League is 35 years old and was expected to be nothing more than insurance at point guard behind Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton.
Through two preseason games, the Argentinian has made a strong case for a spot in Coach Woodson's rotation. Accustomed to the European style of play, Prigioni keeps the ball moving and is effective in the pick-and-roll. Defensively, he pressures the ball with an intensity that is uncommon in the NBA.
The Knicks' offense was most effective against Boston Saturday night when he and Jason Kidd were on the floor at the same time. With Kidd's ability to knock down the three and defend bigger guards, he and Prigioni will share the backcourt at times, especially while Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert are sidelined.
3. Woodson Wants to Push the Ball
On several occasions during the Knicks' preseason victories over the Wizards and Celtics, Coach Woodson could be seen on the sideline emphatically gesturing for his team to push the ball up the floor.
Starting point guard Raymond Felton allayed concerns about his weight when he showed up to training camp thin and toned. He was able to push the tempo against the Celtics, leading to a few fast-break baskets against one of the league's stingiest defenses.
The Knicks should be even more effective in transition once Amar'e Stoudemire, Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert return from injury.
2. These Guys Really Like Each Other
Teammates do not need to like each other in order to be successful on the court, but it certainly helps. Every team endures its share of controversy and losing streaks over the course of an 82-game season. When that adversity hits, a tight-knit locker room is more likely to unify rather than come apart at the seams.
It was evident during the Knicks' victory over the Celtics Saturday night that the guys in the orange and blue jerseys are really pulling for one another. The Knicks' starters were on their feet for the entire fourth quarter and overtime. They waved their towels and jumped up and down every time Prigioni served up a sweet pass, or Copeland finished at the basket.
The Knicks support each other off the court as well. Many of Tyson Chandler's teammates showed up for his art exhibit in Manhattan last month.
1. Pick-and-Roll Will Be a Big Part of the Offense
When Mike Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni last season, he said that he was going to incorporate some of D'Antoni's offensive principles, but the Knicks' offense relied heavily on isolation plays the rest of the way.
Now that Knicks' coach has three veteran points guards in Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni, he is utilizing a staple of D'Antoni's offense, the pick-and-roll. Felton found Tyson Chandler for a few lobs at the rim early in the game against the Celtics.
Prigioni and Chris Copeland sliced and diced Boston's defense with a steady diet of pick-and-rolls in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire worked the two-man game to near-perfection during Felton's first stint with the team in the 2010-2011 season. His return could revitalize Stoudemire's career after a disappointing 2011-2012 campaign and bring some balance to an offense that was too dependent on Carmelo Anthony last season.