5:23 pm Oct. 1, 20122
The Knicks had a lot to show the reporters who attended media day at their practice facility in Tarrytown.
Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony both reported to camp in playing shape, Stoudemire through vigorous offseason workouts, Anthony through his work for the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics. Unlike 2010-11, when the two were thrown together in a midyear deal for Anthony, or 2011-12, when a lockout and Stoudemire back injury kept the pair from working together regularly until midseason, it appears that the two best offensive players on the Knicks will be ready to go from the start.
"We will not allow that to come into our locker room," a determined Anthony said of negativity about the Anthony-Stoudemire pairing, sitting at the podium where players were escorted, one at a time. "We will be one tight-knit group this season. If I need to sacrifice some scoring to help him get back to where we need him to be, I don't have a problem with that."
All good, as far as it went.
What was missing, naturally, was Jeremy Lin, the best story of last season and the player presumed to be the incumbent point guard for this year's Knicks team by no less than coach Mike Woodson himself. He's now a member of the Houston Rockets.
No explanations for his departure were forthcoming on media day.
Grunwald spoke to it briefly, saying "It comes down to Houston made a commitment to him we weren’t prepared to make. I’m very happy for Jeremy that things worked out for him personally and his family and wish him the best. But I’m more excited about our team right now."
That was it, Lin-wise.
But the Knicks did good job not allowing attention to wander too far from the current roster, rolling out player after player in rapid succession.
As Carmelo Anthony finished speaking, Tyson Chandler had already settled in next to him. There wasn't any downtime for the media to gather itself. It was interviewing shock and awe.
The team is without Lin, but they do have Raymond Felton at point guard, with Jason Kidd and Argentine import Pablo Prigioni backing him up. None of the three will likely play at Lin's level from last season, but all three are likely to be better than any other point guard the Knicks employed last season, from Toney Douglas to Baron Davis to Mike Bibby.
Just to put that upgrade into perspective, Felton struggled through the worst season of his career last year in Portland, admitting that he came to camp out of shape, not expecting there to be a season due to the lockout. His P.E.R. dropped all the way to 13.4. Kidd also had the worst season of his career, at 13.1.
Of the three Knicks point guards last year, Davis checked in highest, at 10.0. Douglas and Bibby were in the mid single digits. That's how bad it was.
When asked if he believed Felton could replicate the pick-and-roll effectiveness he had back in 2010-11 with the Knicks, Stoudemire, the beneficiary of Felton's finest professional stretch, was obviously excited.
"No doubt," Stoudemire said. "That's something we had great success with in our offense. That's going to be a great thing for us, along with everything else that we're doing."
The same was true of the front-court depth, with Jared Jeffries and Josh Harrellson missing much of the season with injuries, leaving the Knicks few alternatives to massive minutes for Tyson Chandler. This year, they have Marcus Camby, a similarly defense-first alternative to Chandler who is still playing at an elite level, along with Kurt Thomas and newly signed Rasheed Wallace, reportedly undergoing a physical and expected at practice Tuesday.
"The last couple of years, the Knicks have been putting a good product out there," Camby said, in response to a question about why he chose to return to New York. "When I looked at the roster, I saw a lot of the familiarity I had. With Carmelo and J.R., I played 5-6 years with those guys in Denver, and I thought this was a team I could come in and help."
The perimeter defense has also been upgraded, with Ronnie Brewer signed to do many of the things Iman Shumpert did for the Knicks last season.
"Ronnie's not a guy you're gonna like if he's not on your team," Shumpert said, sporting a throwback flat-top haircut. "Which is the same as myself. I don't think Ronnie cares what's on the front of his uniform, he just goes for the win."
Shumpert will miss at least the first month of the season recovering from knee surgery, and when he returns, the Knicks won't need to rely on him as their only real perimeter defender, thanks to Brewer.
"With my knee, everything has been on target so far," Shumpert expects to be back between December and February, which is an awfully large range of possibilities. But the presence of the Shumpert-alike in Brewer mitigates the worry significantly.
J.R. Smith will be around as well, taking shots essentially whenever he feels like it, which is all the time.
When asked if he ever saw a shot he didn't like, he smiled and replied, "Not too many of them."
Smith also provided an influx of steals defensively, an upgrade over his previous defensive efforts in the league, which had been minimal at best.
But his defensive improvement last season came largely from effort. In the case of Steve Novak, the only real backup at the small forward spot to Carmelo Anthony, the effort was there, always; this summer, he worked on improving the skills to a minimally acceptable level, to complement his world-class perimeter shooting.
"For me, I know that my defense has to be what keeps me on the court," Novak said. "Obviously, I'm known as a shooter. I understand that if I can be valuable enough doing other things, I can stay on the court for the entire game."
When the rollout was complete, a Knicks spokesperson just as rapidly announced that media day was over, practice tomorrow was at 11, and "if you need anybody else, just let me know."