The New York Knicks opened their preseason slate on Wednesday night and Coach Derek Fisher’s squad put forth an impressive first showing against Bauru Basket of the Brazilian Novo Basquete league.
While still just an exhibition, the game — which New York won 100-81 — presented a good opportunity for Coach Fisher to get some of his young Knicks a taste of the heightened competition of a NBA contest. It also allowed some of the New York veterans to get their motors running in time for the long season ahead. D-Fish focused on using this game as an opportunity for his team to get comfortable with one another in a more energetic setting under the lights at Madison Square Garden.
“Just trying to help this particular team start to get comfortable playing basketball together in game situations. Practicing and training camp is one thing, but once you get out there, especially in this building, emotions are high and it’s a different experience.” Derek said afterward. “Overall, not a bad night.”
Among the missions accomplished by the Knicks on Monday was a successful debut for the talented rookies New York nabbed in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft, Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant.
Though he coached both players in the summer league, and has seen them extensively during training camp, the exhibition contest offered Derek a different look at the duo.
Porzingis, the fourth overall pick in the draft, started for the Knicks at power forward and finished the game seven points, a blocked shot, two assists and four rebounds, while knocking down two of his three attempts from beyond the arc.The rookie also received a healthy dose of playing time, logging more than 20 minutes on the floor and his performance earned praise from Coach Fisher.
“Kris was solid. He’s learning so much every times he’s out there on the floor…the game here at Madison Square Garden with the lights bright is a different experience than summer league or training camp practices,” Fisher said. “I thought he was good. He showed some natural instincts in terms of making good offensive moves with the basketball. He was active in trying to protect the rim and change shots or block shots.”
Porzingis’ shot from long range was his most eye-catching trait on Wednesday, as it could be a deadly asset for player with his seven-foot frame. If the rookie big man can spot up and knock down threes consistently — in addition to all the other skills he brings to the table because of his size — it would be a welcomed development for a Knicks team that struggled with long-range shooting last season.
Porzingis' athleticism helps him be aggressive and land with body control. Best example was the block at the end of the half. #knicks
— Tommy Dee (@ThomasCDee) October 8, 2015
Porzingis with the block!!!
— . (@FiendCris) October 8, 2015
New York’s other first round rookie, Jerian Grant, also had a promising debut. Grant spent more than half Wednesday’s game on the court, logging 27:35 of game time. That was second on the team to Langston Galloway’s 31:42. The touted rookie out of Notre Dame showed flashes that he could emerge as a top guard for the Knicks going forward. In particular, D-Fish noted afterward that he loved how Grant showed self-control with his level of energy, a trait that not a lot of rookies possess.
“I think Jerian has a good feel for the game. For young players which is kind of hard to do, but to have kind of a pace and a composure, or poise, to their game which I think allows for more efficiency. A lot of time young guys just play really fast, they’re trying really hard, but I think Jerian’s ability to kind of, whether it’s natural or learned, he’s a pretty cool guy, pretty relaxed and calm…I think that helps him see the game really well.”
Grant finished the game with eight points, four assists and two rebounds. His playmaking skills were perhaps the biggest takeaway from his strong performance. A standout moment for the young guard came late in the first quarter when he made a nifty behind-the-back dribble to shake off a defender and weaved the ball to new Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn, who drove to the basket for a huge slam.
— oakley & allen (@oakleyandallen) October 8, 2015
Wow. First preseason game in the books. On to the next.
— Jerian Grant (@JerianGrant) October 8, 2015
Jerian Grant has looked good. Very confident and aggressive going to the basket. Has six points and four assists.
— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 8, 2015
One of the biggest bright spots for the Knicks in Wednesday’s win came not from a rookie or a newcomer, but from a veteran star and New York stalwart. In his first game action since last February, All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony led the team with 17 points and also went 2-for-3 from three-point land. Just a few months removed from offseason knee surgery, Anthony appeared ready for the season. In fact, Melo made it clear during the first quarter that he was already in mid-season form, hitting five of six field goal attempts while scoring 11 points.
Newcomers Kyle O’Quinn and Kevin Seraphin also put together solid nights for the Knicks on both sides of the court. In a well-rounded effort, O’Quinn tallied 14 points, dished out four assists and led the team with eight rebounds. Seraphin chipped in 14 points of his own to go along with five rebounds.
One of New York’s most prized free agent acquisitions, Robin Lopez started the game at center and played just over 16 minutes for the Knicks. In his first game action with his new team, Lopez recorded six points, two rebounds and four assists. The Knicks utilized a Lopez-Porzingis frontcourt in the first and third quarters, and the two seven-footers should give the Knicks’ some much needed size this season.
Wednesday’s game was the first of six for the Knicks this preseason and the only one they’ll play against a non-NBA team, so the competition level will only increase for New York as the preseason progresses. But despite the fact that it was done against an international team, Fisher looked at the exhibition opener as a great opportunity for his team to be challenged early on and gain some confidence in themselves.
“Although this was an international team, these guys are far stronger and far more difficult of a challenge I think in a lot of situations. The way this team plays that we played against tonight is very unique; their style, the type of things they run defensively,” Derek explained. “For young players on the floor with veteran players, the better you execute and the better team you become, in terms of execution, timing, rhythm. It makes it easier for young guys to fit in.”
The Knicks make their first road trip of the preseason down to Washington, D.C. this week, where they’ll take on the Wizards at the Verizon Center on Friday night.
Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on MSG2 and NBATV.