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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

First Impressions on the Knicks

Got my first look at the 2006/07 edition of the New York Knicks last night, as they played a preseason game against the Celtics. Here's my take:

  • Jalen Rose started, but don't get used to that. Isiah Thomas told the press that Quentin Richardson probably would have gotten the nod if Paul Pierce had been able to play. The Knicks seem to be thinking that small forward will be a primarily defensive position, and Rose plays no D. Until Jared Jeffries returns, Richardson or David Lee or even Renaldo Balkman would be better options.
  • New York's perimeter defense was atrocious last season, and right now it seems that's a trend that will continue. The starting backcourt of Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis doesn't match up well with quick guards. Look for guys like Allen Iverson, Sebastian Telfair and T.J. Ford to do a lot of damage against the Knicks.
  • How can you not like Nate Robinson? At one point in the first half, Robinson brought the ball up and passed off to someone on the wing -- it was either Jamal Crawford or Quentin Richardson, I didn't see. "Crawfordson" took a quick three, which hit the front rim... and Robinson snaked his way down the lane and scored on a putback. Left-handed. The guy is about as tall as my three-year-old son, and he's scoring on putbacks. That's outstanding.
  • Eddy Curry was active, and he looked a lot quicker than at any point last season. Of course, the Celtics' interior defense could charitably be described as "horrendous," so last night might not be a representative example.
  • Channing Frye was aggressive on the offensive end, really looking to score when he got the ball inside of 18 feet or so. I think he'll have a big season.

And finally, I think the fans at Madison Square Garden are going to fall in love with... Renaldo Balkman. The guy is crazily energetic on the floor, he attacks the basket with abandon, and he's able to rip down a rebound and immediately start pushing up the floor leading the break. New York hasn't had a big man with that sort of ability since Anthony Mason.

The more I see of Balkman, the more he reminds me of Mase-in-the-Face. Manic energy. Surprising ball-handling skills for a man his size. Active defense. Very limited offensive game. (Balkman's range extends to maybe six feet. Mason was famous for using the same ball-fake every time he got possession on the block, and then having his shot swatted.)

Do I think they drafted him too early? Yes. Could they have gotten another player with their first pick and still nabbed Balkman with the 29th? For sure. But Balkman will be fun to watch, and I think he'll make New York's rotation.


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