The Knicks made their way into Washington D.C. Thursday night, trotting into the Verizon Center to face the Wizards in their first 2012 preseason matchup.
There's a ton of excitement surrounding the team with expectations as high as ever, but the group hitting the hardwood against Washington wasn't exactly the full group New York's expects to have competing for a title.
There was no Amar'e Stoudemire, and no Marcus Camby. Even Rasheed Wallace sat out the matchup, as did a couple of other Knickerbockers coping with injuries. Despite a shorthanded roster and a 22-0 second quarter run by the Wizards, New York held on for a 108-101 victory.
Of course, while it may make the team feel good to start things off right by adding one to the win column, this game wasn't about winning or losing. These preseason matchups are about making sure guys get back into game shape as they hit the ground running, and seeing which of those very players made improvements over the offseason.
With those things in mind, there were certainly a bevy of positives to take away from this one. For starters, Raymond Felton looked like a true playmaker out there. The returning Knickerbocker came back with a vengeance, zip-lining passes to his teammates again and again. He finished with 8 assists and just one turnover.
Following Felton's lead, the Knicks played efficiency, though they didn't put the ball on the floor too often. Adopting a "catch and shoot" mentality into the flow of their offense, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak, and J.R. Smith were among those who capitalized from Felton's sweet dimes by throwing up shots right after the pass.
Though a bit more fluidity with regard to ball movement (perhaps looking to make the extra pass) often benefits a team, the Knicks were able to excel Thursday simply by firing away on all cylinders. The team shot over 54% from downtown, with Novak leading the way, scoring 21 points as he connected on seven long-range bombs. Anthony knocked down three shots from deep on his way to scoring 17 points of his own, and even Pablo Prigioni joined the fun. The Argentine floor general added 13 points and hit four shots from beyond the arc. Smith also poured in 20 points in the victory.
Former BayHawks' guard and current Knicks' training camp invitee Mychel Thompson was granted the start at shooting guard with Smith coming off the bench, and Iman Shumpert & Ronnie Brewer sidelined. The 24 year old moved well and was able to get open as he spread the floor, but unfortunately wasn't able to capitalize on the opportunities at hand. He shot 0-5 from the field.
The strong fundaments seem to be in place for Thompson, and if he's only able to start knocking down that consistent jumper, could soon be garnering further consideration from the Knicks for a spot on the team.
Tyson Chandler looked a bit more aggressive on offense, not only powering home a couple of dunks, but laying in agile layups too as he looked to attack the basket. Such an offensive mentality could really give the Knicks a boost throughout the season as they look to diversify their offensive attack. On the other side on the ball, Chandler's front court mate, Kurt Thomas, looked strong and in shape, as he played the physical and gritty basketball that made him a fan favorite over a decade ago. His return will undoubtedly be embraced.
The Knicks collapsed on defense quite a bit, and a couple of players struggled in their first game back. That said, there were plenty of positives to take away from the win, as the team showed quite a bit of promise to get excited about in the weeks to come. It'll be an interesting month ahead to monitor New York's forthcoming progress.