Sound the alarm. The Knicks came out in Detroit and made me straight up giddy after 275 days of not seeing the blue and orange! I saw so much upside from the (yet again) New Look Knicks. Unfortunately, there were a few things that were sadly reminiscent of years past.
I want to take the morning to talk about a few things I saw from Game 1 and what I expect to be coming in the next 3 preseason games and beyond.
1. Immanuel Quickley - Straight off the bat, the first thing that I noticed and saw so much chatter about on twitter was the fact that IQ saw a whopping 0 minutes. This should not have been a surprise. Thibs has a backlog of guards that are frankly, ahead of Quickley on the depth chart. Austin Rivers is out with a groin pull, Frank needs minutes, DSJ needs to prove the work he did during the offseason has made an impact, Alec Burks is probably the Knicks best 3 point shooter (until Quickley can prove otherwise) and whether you like him or not Elfrid Payton is a guy who runs the point really well. Sure he isn't an amazing shooter but the way he orchestrates the team, is above average and until someone steps up and is more well rounded. He is your starting PG. Quick WILL see minutes in the next few preseason games because Thibs needs to do his due diligence and IQ NEEDS to perform to see any minutes once the real games start on Dec 22nd (The Knicks open on 12.23 @ Indy).
2. Nerlens Noel/ Mitchell Robinson - Mitch didn't get the start and early on it was easy to see why. Noel ran the floor well, defended well and seemed to gel very easily with the first team especially offensively. It certainly looks to be a redemption year for him and he knows it. Mitch unfortunately still looks like Bambi. A little unsure of himself and a few stupid early fouls as soon as he got in the game. Unless he can sure up those ticky tack touch fouls he will spend a lot of time watching Noel and Spellman take his minutes. I do see him making a big jump this year defensively, not only because of Thibs but with Woody and more specifically, Kenny Payne. Mitch forewent college and Payne spent the last 10 years under John Calipari at Kentucky he is exactly the type of coach that should be able to get through and help Mitch break out defensively this year. Watch for the glow up!
3. Defense - We actually played some, crazy right?! With the exception of a few lazy possessions, almost every shot was contested and we forced 22 turnovers. You could tell that the Thibs arrival has sparked some defensive intensity. He won't let you get lazy or complacent on the defensive end of the floor which is something the Knicks have needed for a long time. I even noticed the Knicks playing perimeter defense which has been an especially weak point in years past. Ever the optimist, I'm really happy with the direction this team could go this season and the growth we could see from the youth. Fingers crossed.
4. Obi Toppin - Wow. I don't want to get ahead of myself here but that kid is absolutely as good as advertised. He looked very comfortable on the court, had some good ball handling and played slow and methodical with his back to the hoop. Not to be outdone in that aspect, he ran the floor and can jump straight out of the gym. So athletic, even saving a few balls that were heading out of bounds to give the Knicks a little extra life. A few rookie plays with some cross court passes that got away from him and a loooong 3 point shot that was far too strong and ricocheted off the backboard, I think we can attribute that to some nerves but I am happy to see this kid in our uniform even though I was expecting to see Tyrese Haliburton on draft night.
5. Julius Randle - l mean.. what can you say about ol' No Handle Randle. There was only one major spin move that I noticed at the top of the key where he got dizzy and forgot to keep dribbling, so that's an improvement, right? Wrong- he has a new move where he spends a ton of energy getting into the paint only to make a jump pass out to the 3 point line that's shaky at best. That is going to be a problem and his trade value is going to plummet. Scott Perry is going to have a ton of work to do if they plan to move him for some serviceable assets before the deadline. An unenviable position for sure.
Bonus. RJ Barrett - A slow start for our sophomore with some really rusty jump shots. Ending the first go with a game high 15 points he kept shooting and kept working, stayed aggressive and didn't let it affect him on the other side of the ball even though he started 0-6.
It was the same old 3 quarter Knicks almost letting an 18 point lead slipping away down the stretch in the 4th but I do not expect Thibs to let that mental lapse slide and that late game laziness will be rectified quickly. Conditioning is going to be key to pick up wins in close games. Let's keep watching and see if the Knicks have what it takes.