If Jeremy Lin has a very productive year for the Rockets, he'll make it difficult for the Knicks to forget him so easily. In Houston's inaugural game of the season Wednesday night, he propelled himself to a strong start.
The Harvard grad scored 12 points, dished out 8 assists, and grabbed 4 steals. Perhaps more impressively, Lin's had a team-high plus/minus of +23 (the second highest of his career) as he helped lead his team to a 105-96 opening night victory over the Pistons.
No, with that type of success, Lin won't be terribly easy to forget. But as he returns to the Big Apple for his second stint as a Knickerbocker, Raymond Felton hopes he can do enough to not only help New York achieve their own success, but also make a strong individual (second) impression on the team's fan base.
With Lin gone and the Knicks in need of a strong and steady floor general to take charge of an offense that has in the past struggled with miscommunications, all eyes will be on Felton. Newsday's own Al Iannazone examines Felton's predicament more in this piece here.
But with the pressure mostly on Felton, one of his fellow point guard teammates may have an easier road ahead. After turning heads and impressing many fans and media members alike, Pablo Prigioni could be poised to have a solid "rookie" season.
Though he can run the floor efficiently, the Knicks will also look to Felton as their secondary option on offense behind Carmelo Anthony while Amar'e Stoudemire nurses his knee injury. The returning Knickerbocker is a guard who loves to drive to the basket and score the basketball, so being asked to do so will undoubtedly be a task he embraces. Aside from Anthony and Felton, Tyson Chandler will also be looked upon to be a more prominent player on the offensive end. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak will together pace the offensive contributions of New York's second unit.
With so many players ready and able to pour in the points, what the Knicks need, in addition, are floor generals to help connect the dots. Jason Kidd is sure to be able to do that, but in his older age, he may do so at a slower and steadier pace.
The question then becomes, who will provide that ultimate spark? Though he himself is 35 years old, Prigioni's legs are without any NBA years. Make no mistake, he's anxious enough to hit the ground running.
High energy is part of what Prigioni displayed this preseason. It's obvious he relishes being able to run up and down the court with the ball in his hands, and he certainly has the court vision to find his teammates and help them finish on the offensive end. His speed and aggression also helps him thrive defensively, using his quick hands to come up with steals.
The Argentine guard made quite the impression last month, averaging 6 points, 6.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game through six preseason contests.
Think of the types of things Iman Shumpert did for the Knicks last season. Even Baron Davis (when/if healthy) provided New York with quite the boost off the pine. The team needs a point guard to help push the tempo for the second unit, and Prigioni appears to have the tools necessary to do so.
Raymond Felton may be the point guard that is completely front and center on the Big Apple's biggest and brightest stage this year. In Jeremy Lin's shadow as he looks for redemption himself, that's almost guaranteed for the returning Knickerbocker.
Amongst all the hype, however, Prigioni may swoop on in to steal the show at times. He's a speedy guard with even stronger fundamentals, aiming to prove he has what it takes to compete in the NBA following a lengthy career in Europe. He and the Knicks need each other for different reasons, and their union couldn't have seemed to come at a more opportune time.