Knicks Beat Nets (in Preseason), 116–98

Jennings starts and shines and we see Willy and Kuz play

via nyknicks

Your New York Knickerbockers have emerged victorious in their first game of the season–well, the preseason, that is.

This win, while fun, is not the most important takeaway from tonight’s game. What is the most important takeaway, however, was how fluid the Knicks’ offense appeared when their key players were in the game, the headliner being former Knick-killer Brandon Jennings.

Brandon Jennings was given the nod tonight when it was announced Derrick Rose would miss tonight’s matchup versus the Brooklyn Nets due to his ongoing sexual assault case keeping him in Los Angeles.

Gifted the reigns to the offense, Jennings did not disappoint. What we saw offensively was a glimpse of what head coach Jeff Hornecek has been talking about implementing since his arrival in New York. He has spoken about wanting his guys to push the ball up the court, and that’s exactly what we saw from Jennings tonight. Brandon finished with only 4 points and 5 assists, but don’t let the box score fool you. Jennings was creating excellent spacing all night, which, in turn, created a ton of easy looks for his guys.

It was painfully obvious how much more fluid the Knicks were on the offensive side of the ball in this game than they were in Houston, partially because Brandon pushed the ball in transition, and even when some shots missed, he’s creating the exact kind of looks the Knicks need for this upcoming season in order to be any kind of successful. Where Rose is generally looking to score first, Jennings has been constantly looking to dish and create better spacing with his ability to get into the paint with ease.

Also, there was a concerted effort to get KP the ball, as there was an array of methods used to get it to him. Between the pick-and-pops, pick-and-rolls, and the give-and-go’s, I viewed this as a continuation from the third quarter of the game in Houston, when the Toyota Center briefly turned into KP’s playground. We can only hope this trend continues.

Photo: NBAE/Getty Images (via NYPost)

What I Liked

  • Chasson Randle: The Knicks need perimeter shooting help. Chasson Randle may just be that help, as he finished with 14 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep. This is the exact kind of player that the Knicks need on the wing this season to compliment Rose or Jennings whenever they drive to the hoop, giving them an option as he camps out in the corner and waits for a kick-out pass. Randle, if used properly, could help a small-ball lineup for New York this season. Imagine a lineup consisting of Rose/Jennings-Randle-Lee-Melo-Porzingis. Not quite a death lineup, but if Hornacek is serious about upping the pace, this is the type of lineup we should be on the look-out for. Joakim Noah sure as hell isn’t beating anybody down the court these days.
  • Big Willy: Guillermo “Willy” Hernangómez can hoop. This is important news, because our organization has $72 million wrapped up in a starting center who may not start all too often, so having skilled frontcourt depth is imperative. Willy displayed a nice post game, not just in terms of scoring, but recognizing cutters and when to pass out if he couldn’t operate down low. He appears to be a decent decision-maker in the post, like KP, so having a trio of bigs on our frontline with high I.Q.’s is a bonus.
  • Carmelo: A fairly routine night for ‘Melo, as he continued his selfless play from a season ago. Carmelo got his shots up, finishing with 16 on 6-of-11 shooting, but he seemed much more patient. He was finding cutters in the right spots, including a brilliant bounce pass to Willy after a double team came at Carmelo. He’s spoken at length about not forcing as much this season, and tonight seemed to back that that up.
  • Kristaps: Through two games, it’s clear that coach Hornacek is trying to center the offense around Porzingis. For the second game in a row, we saw plays run repeatedly with the sole purpose of getting the ball into KP’s hands. Jennings ran numerous pick-and-rolls, or pops, to get the ball to KP as he was running towards the basket, or leaving him with a wide open three-point attempt. Much has been said about the Knicks signing big names and underachieving, however if the intent is to let Kristaps be the center of the offense (no pun intended), you’d have to wonder how much better that’ll make the Knicks this season. KP finished with 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting, with six rebounds and a block. If this play is any indication that Hornacek wants KP to run, the rest of the league had better take notice.

Finally, the defensive remained poor. The Knicks let Joe-freaking-Harris go for 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc, but the issue seemed to be a lackadaisical effort to simply get out to the shooters. It seems to be mostly a recovery issue, in my opinion, after the initial play, or attack, the New York defense struggles to get back into place and find their assignments.

Against the lowly Nets, this’ll fly, but against the best the East, and the rest of the league has to offer, it will not.

Kyle Maggio, senior writer

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