Let’s begin this post by giving ourselves, we, basketball fans, a round of applause; we’ve made it through the NBA offseason.
Media day for NBA teams is September 30, in which we’ll be teased with pictures, videos, promos, and lots of quotes from players about being in the best shapes of their lives, their new and improved games, and skies being the limit. After that, October 1, real basketball. Training camp begins, and that means scrimmages, drills, actual highlights and insights.
Things got hairy for a little while this offseason in New York Knicks-land. Luckily, there have been no reported deaths over the Andrea Bargnani trade. Among the Bargnani insanity, the Knicks also gathered a team in which J.R. Smith, Ron Artest, and Kenyon Martin will play significant roles and play, likely, at the same time – pure chaos. Knicks players have jawed and jabbed at their cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, heating a simmering rivalry through the media before they even meet on the court.
But that’s almost over now, and finally, we’ll get to analyze actual on-court events. Let’s get to it, shall we? Here’s what I’m looking forward to in the upcoming New York Knicks training camp:
1.) Andrea Bargnani – The Bargnani trade has been praised, criticized, analyzed from every which way. Most media members are on the same disapproving page, but fans have been split by their varying feelings on the whole thing. I, personally, have remained unhappy with the draft picks given up in the trade, but am excitedly anxious to see how this gamble works out.
There’s no denying that Bargnani has talent, but the polarizing matter in the trade lies in his lack of defensive capabilities and his recent under-performance on offense, his supposed worthwhile trait. Nonetheless, he’s an intriguing piece on this Knicks team. Carmelo Anthony wanted another scorer — the Knicks got a guy who can fill it up at his best moments, disappear and even hurt a team at his worst.
Training camp will reveal how Bargnani looks in scrimmages (especially after missing five weeks of training/playing while dealing with an illness this summer), how he fits in with the team, where he will find his minutes, etc. Will he start at the forward spot with Carmelo Anthony? Will he come off the bench as part of a potentially explosive offensive bench also featuring Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith? Enough discussion; I can’t wait to see how this unravels.
2.) Tim Hardaway Jr. - I’m among the least qualified people to dsicuss college basketball, but Hardaway Jr., like the name just above, remains a polarizing part of this offseason. He showed moments of absolute stardom with Michigan during his collegiate years, but he also has tendencies and skills that project him to be a lot like a trigger-happy guard with initials as his first name who is currently on the team, recovering from surgery, waiting to serve a five-game suspension.
Hardaway Jr. can score the ball. He also, according to footage and draft profiles, likes to shoot long jumpers, fade away when he shoots, over-dribble, and fail to utlize his supreme athleticism around the basket. Yeah, sounds like J.R. Smith. However, this is taking a negative stance. In his abbreviated stint at the Las Vegas Summer League, Hardaway Jr. looked confident and polished, a potentially NBA-ready contributor.
With Smith missing some time at the beginning of this season, training camp (and the subsequent preseason) will be Hardaway Jr.’s chance to prove he can be a rotation player. His role will be significantly reduced on this Knicks team, which could eliminate some his less-than-desirable basketball attributes. He could act as a floor-spreader, a guy who can create his own shot on a broken possession, and get out on the break. Intriguing, certainly. Let’s see what happens in camp.
3.) Two-Point-Guard Lineups - An also oft-discussed topic this offseason has been whether Mike Woodson will go back to the two-point-guard lineups that were so successful last season. The Knicks did a commendable job in re-signing Pablo Prigioni (a subtly key player to last year’s success) and signing Beno Udrih to essentially replace Jason Kidd. Glen Grunwald, Woodson, and several other coaches have stated that the Knicks do have the horses to once again go to those small, but efficient lineups this season.
However, the Knicks also have a considerable amount of front-court players that need playing time — Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Metta World Peace, Stoudemire, Bargnani, Martin — and two-point-guard lineups tend to push natural guards like Iman Shumpert and Smith into the front-court as small forwards. One of the many things Woodson has on his plate is finding minutes for all of these players and further crowding the fonrt-court won’t help.
Yet the addition of Udrih, in particular, makes two-PG lineups extra intriguing. He has double the foot-speed of 2012-13 Kidd and possesses an attack mentality on offense, willing to take the open shot or create for himself in the pick-and-roll. He can space the floor and is the perfect primary or secondary play-maker to have on the floor for the Knicks’ spread pick-and-roll offense.
Training camp should reveal what Woodson has up his sleeves with the offense and the rotations, and it will be very interesting to see how/if he incorporates two point guards on the floor.
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