The New York Knicks closed out their preseason schedule on Thursday against the Boston Celtics with the starting lineup Derek Fisher hoped to roll out for their season opener on Wednesday.
The Celtics were able to get the better of the Knicks this time around, as D-Fish and Co. fell to Boston 85-99 in the second meeting of the preseason between the two Atlantic Division foes. The Knicks saw encouraging signs from many players on the roster like Jose Calderon and Derrick Williams, but were dealt a blow when the expected starting shooting guard, Aaron Afflalo, reinjured his left hamstring in the third quarter.
D-Fish was unaware of the severity of Afflalo’s reinjured hamstring, but he noted the team will keep a close eye on him in the days leading up to the regular season opener and try to devise a plan of action for the necessary treatment.
“We’ll see over the next couple of days what his body tells us and we’ll go from there,” Fisher said. “We can’t overanalyze something we don’t understand yet. We’ll figure out what the program is and what the treatment plan is and then we can kind of decide whether we should be concerned.”
Before Afflalo left the game, he put together a strong outing offensively, scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting while knocking down both of his attempted shots from beyond the arc.
Aside from Afflalo’s injury, the severity of which is still yet to be determined, Fisher feels that his team got through the preseason relatively unscathed, which was one his goals. He also liked what he has seen out of his squad in the first few weeks in general when it comes to sticking to the processes.
“We really have done some good things this first few weeks. We’re trying to become a team and learn about who we are and having guys in and out etcetera,” Fish explained. “It’s really more about the process and what we’re trying to do and the fact we’re through the preseason relatively healthy, we will pretty much have all of our guy’s opening night. That was the goal and I think we got some things accomplished.”
Because of the depth the Knicks possess going into this season, players like Sasha Vujacic didn’t even get to see the court on Thursday. Fisher sees this as a positive because it speaks for how many players on his roster that can get the job done when their numbers are called.
“It makes my job tougher when we have guys at every position that night in and night out they can play. Some nights out guys won’t get a chance, but that’s what makes Sasha special, is that he’s a team guy and even if his opportunity isn’t there like it wasn’t tonight, he’ll be ready the next night no matter what and that’s why we brought him here,” Derek said.
One of the big free agent acquisitions for the Knicks this offseason came in the form of Robin Lopez, who has played well over the course of the preseason. Lopez will serve as the rim protector the Knicks have lacked in past years while providing offensive upside as well. In Thursday’s preseason finale, Lopez played well, recording two blocked shots while chipping in seven points, an assist and a rebound.
“I would categorize it as pretty good,” Fisher said when asked about Lopez’s performance this preseason. “When he’s on the floor we’re better and I think he’s understanding more about the way we’re trying to play offensively in some things we’re trying to do, but Robin’s a solid basketball player and we’re going to enjoy having him. The fact that he’s gotten stronger and healthier as the preseason’s gone on, those are all good signs.”
Williams also continued his strong preseason play while scoring 14 points and draining two of his three-point attempts in the process. Another strong offensive performance came from Calderon, who had 17 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists. Calderon led the team scoring and in minutes played with 33. Kyle O’Quinn and Jerian Grant both had quiet nights offensively, but pitched in with a combined 16 rebounds.
Kristaps Porzingis, who will open the season as the starting power forward, picked up a few fouls in the opening 4:21 and was pulled at that point. The 7-foot-3 rookie forward still made some encouraging plays after he got back on the court, finishing 4-of-9 for eight points with eight rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes. Fisher wasn’t worried about the rookie’s foul trouble and his transition to NBA officiating.
“[Foul trouble] just happens. Guys are 7-foot out there and all going after it. Some nights the calls are called, some nights they aren’t as quickly. I don’t necessarily think he was doing anything wrong other than just playing the game,” D-Fish said. “I don’t think there’s anything differently he could have done.”
After concluding the preseason with a 4-2 record, Fisher and the Knicks have a good foundation to work around as they prepare for their regular season opener. The energy surrounding this new-look team has many around New York excited for what the Knicks could do this year to exceed expectations.
The regular season tips off at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. EST and will be broadcasted on MSG.