Atlantic Division Preview – Boston Celtics

We all thought it couldn’t get any worse. The big three left, Rajon Rondo was there to stay by himself, and Doc Rivers himself took off and went to Los Angeles. To say the least, the Celtics had a pretty rough stretch there for a while, but have no fear! Brad Stevens is here to save the day.

Stevens came into the league after going to two national championships at the collegiate level with Butler. He joined the Celtics in 2013. In his first season with the team, which was for the most part free of Rondo, Stevens led the team to a record of 25-57. For a rookie coaching campaign, with a mostly depleted roster, who’s highlight player when Rondo was injured was more than likely Avery Bradley or Jared Salinger, he did pretty well.

This season, many questions face the Celtics, the first and most important of which is what to do with Rajon Rondo. The Celtics now have Marcus Smart, whose natural position is point guard, same as Rondo. While some believe there is hope that Smart could make a transition to playing shooting guard, there is quite a bit of skepticism amongst others about Smarts ability to develop a smooth shooting motion.

Other issues that the Celtics are going to have this season consist of Jared Salinger and Kelly Olynyk being the starting front court duo, and how the guard rotation will work with Rondo, Smart, and Bradley. Despite the logic that tells us this season is going to be a learning curve for Stevens once again and also allowing Smart time to develop, but for some reason I get the feeling that this team wont be absolutely horrible.

There are a lot of opportunities to be horrible in this division, especially if your team is located in Philadelphia. Other teams that have a chance to be horrible in this division, well that consists of everyone that isn’t named the Toronto Raptors. All of this stems from the fact that last year, watching the Atlantic Division records was kind of like watching a shitty soap opera. The plot sucked, everyone made fun of it, with the exception of the one good actor who seems to drag the show along, and all the while, we get to sit there and figure out who gets killed next. Oddly enough the Nets were the last ones killed off last year, losing to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Personally I thought Toronto deserved to go to the Conference Finals last year, but deserving to go somewhere has never meant that you’re going to get to. With that kind of logic, Steve Nash would have won the title in 2007, but he didn’t. The fact that the Nets went and got lit up in a gentlemen’s sweep after proclaiming that they were the team that was going to beat the Heat was something similar to listening Stan telling Francine in American Dad that he had no idea what happened to Hailey when he brainwashed her. We knew it wasn’t true the whole time.

The fact of the matter is, the Celtics are destined to be a similar team to the one that we saw last year. There is hope that having Rondo back (eventually) to go along with other improvements, will help this team, but no one should be expecting a playoff birth for this team. From time to time, we just need to take a step back and remember that no one can win all the time, and you probably wont do so with Evan Turner being your primary ball handler. Besides, the Celtics already have plenty of Titles.

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What to Expect From Your First Basketball Game in, Like, Years

After a few years long break, the first game you’ll see live is a preseason contest between the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks.  That’s how these things work.  The ticket will only be three dollars, but parking will be ten.  You’ll take a picture of the Palace of Auburn Hills in the sunset that’s a lot less impressive on second look, but it’s important to document these things.

When you get inside, you’ll walk the concourse to a Buffalo Wild Wings and remember “I love wings and haven’t had them in a long time.”   You’ll then decide $10 for wings is too much, but $9 for some nachos is a pretty sweet deal.  The older gentleman behind the counter will assure you that jalapeños are good, and you’ll agree because he seems trustworthy and you know from experience that jalapeños are, in fact, okay.  The nachos won’t be as tasty as you expected, but you remember you need to temper expectations because it’s the preseason.  Regardless, you’ll eat the whole plate because your phone wasn’t greasy enough, and you’re fat. Hit the gym, nerd.

You’ll take your seat at 6:46. “Timber” will play at 7:07. You’ll return to your seat at 7:12.

Part of the pregame entertainment will consist of a 45-second cluster of dancers, more dancers, a drum line, and flipping trampoline dunkers.  It will stop before you can comprehend it.  At some point, this picture will display on the jumbotron:

You will be charmed.

At one point, a live band will begin playing, and the sound guy will forget to turn their mics on.  They will stop abruptly in the second verse of “Poker Face,” and the person next to you will emit a sustained “awwwwww” while frowning.  You will feel bad for a minute, but then you’ll notice a keytarist.  A real, live keytarist. He will have a keytar and become your hero.

The layup line will start.  Greg Monroe will go through line with one hand in his pocket.  Jonas Jerebko will go through the line while chewing gum.  Kyle Singler will go through the line and might do something, but all you’ll notice is that his chin looks like a prosthetic.  Josh Smith will allegedly be a part of the line, but he will start taking jumpers, and then the layup line will just kind of give up on itself and devolve to a second shootaround that nobody seemed prepared for.  You won’t have any alcohol, but you’ll think about it.

Hooper will be ready for the game to start.

The game will start.

Your favorite play of the first quarter will be when D.J. Augustin (Starter: DJ Augustin) had Smith open for a corner three, decide not to give him the open shot, dribble towards the corner, make two defenders collapse on him, and then drop the ball off to Josh Smith cutting behind him who will drive to the basket and score.  You’ll love it.

Josh Smith will take two jumpers but will hit them both.  You’ll have mixed feelings.

The person next to you will certify that Smith is the best player on the team and will exhort Smith to keep shooting.  They will also get mad when people drive and kick it out for threes.  When Augustin passes up a contested layup to find KCP in the left corner, they will stand and yell, “Why did he…? He did that on purpose!” “Yes he did,” you will think to yourself.  This person will become a vessel for your aggravation, pulling it away from the players on the court. This will free your appreciation of the good things that Josh Smith does.

You’ll notice that Josh Smith can pass.  Holy hell.  He’ll throw a bullet overhand to Kyle Singler in the corner who will bobble it before knocking down his only three of the game.  He’ll throw a no-look lob to Andre Drummond who won’t be able to finish.  He’ll attempt a rapid handoff to Greg Monroe under the basket that Monroe won’t expect and will fumble out of bounds.  You’ll see that Smith sees things that you don’t.  You’ll be convinced that Smith is the best player on the court whenever he is on the court.  You’ll remember Smith is playing the Bucks, but still.

At some point, two Bucks will knock the ball into their own basket fighting for a rebound. You will laugh. Jabari Parker will airball a free throw on the immediate next possession. You will laugh more.  The Bucks will score 29 points in the 1st quarter before the Pistons go on a 45-18 run in the next 18 minutes.  You’ll be in a good mood.

You’ll realize there is no better mood than in the brief, collective exhalation when Andre Drummond hits a free throw.  You’ll have gone to the game to cheer for Drummond, but you’ll begin to wish he had displayed a bit more touch. Granted play will seem much more urgent in person, but a good amount of Drummond’s early looks will be predicated on “Oh shit, there’s space and there’s space right now! Everything is on fire!”  Somehow he’ll still finish with 15 and 16.

The woman dropping her tray of popcorn and beer will signal that it’s time to leave.  On your ride home, you’ll realize that you can’t remember any point when Drummond, Smith, and Monroe were all on the floor together.  You’ll recognize that there are eight people on the team you have some measure of confidence in.  You’ll start feeling hope creeping back up again, and this will worry you.

When you get back to your computer, you’ll check the box score and realize Hasheem Thabeet was on the bench the whole time.  It’s a weird moment, and it’s too late to try and figure out what that means in the cosmic sense.  There are things you’ll never figure out. Besides, it’s 11:30.  You should get to sleep.

Central Division Preview – Part 3

I always record my half of my conversations with people so I can play it back afterward and feel better knowing that at least one person listened to me.  Sigh.  I bring this up because something interesting came up in a phone call I recently had with someone who doesn’t appreciate me as much as they should.  We’ve known each other for years and he owes me like three hundred bucks.

Me: Hey [name redacted because I’m not giving him press].
Me: I don’t care if it was an accident.  You called me. Now you’re stuck.
Me: 45 seconds at least.
Me: I dunno.  See any movies lately?
Me: Okay.  Fine.  The Bucks.
Me: No, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Me: You know I don’t hunt.
Me: Well, you should have known I don’t hunt.  How long have we known each other, [name redacted because he has more twitter followers than me]?  Whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  What do you think their record is going to be?
Me: No don’t hang up yet.  Trust me.  They’re interesting.
Me: They are!

He hung up.  But I realized that in my pleading for social contact, I had actually stumbled upon something good.  Kind of like when you trip over a tree root and smash your face on a rock, only to find that someone dropped a wallet that hadn’t been emptied out yet right next to that piece of your tooth.  There’s always a silver lining.

I can understand if people in Milwaukee may disagree, and they have a right to because I’m the one who decides these things, and I said so.  But where the Bucks are right now?  That’s the best place to watch a team.  Yeah, yeah, quality of basketball is important, I guess, and  contending for a championship is kind of the point, and winning a championship is the ultimate goal, and on and on and shut up.  What I mean is that right now the Bucks have it the best in terms of a long term mindset.

Really?  That’s fascinating.  Go on, Matt.

Thanks, Matt.  I will.  Cheering for the Bucks right now is safe.  It’s like cheering for the Lions to get just one win after the 0-16 season, or for Tomoaki Honma to get one point in the G1 Climax, or for your nephew’s teeball team to get one run before the umpire invokes the mercy rule.  What is there to lose by cheering for this team?  There’s nothing left.  Anything is a victory.  You’re free.

This means you can throw your entire fandom into smaller things. Larry Sanders is playing and not in trouble? Yay! Giannis has grown to 8’2”? Yahoo! Jabari turns out to be the most NBA Ready rookie? Kapow! Fwoosh! Zing!  Any of that would be progress, and unlike other teams, progress is not protocol.  In Milwaukee, all of it would be something to be happy about.  It’d be foolish to expect a championship, so aim low.  Aim really, really low, and do it with enthusiasm.  You’ll love it.

There aren’t any fabricated goals set by management.  There is no bravado.  There is no history of success to jade hometown fans and incense rivals.  The team is young.  It could be a ton of fun to watch.  A step in the right direction probably wouldn’t truly upset a potential contender, so they’re not going to impinge on other fanbases.  They’re the underdog.  It’s impossible not to support a team with this story no matter who you root for, which is probably why Cleveland was trying so hard to manufacture this image since 2011.  It didn’t work.

But for Milwaukee, it feels genuine.  Growing team turmoil ripped the hope of a playoff berth away, and now they can only get better.  (This isn’t strictly true, but let’s pretend it is for the sake of Wisconsin.)  There are new owners now, which probably can’t hurt.  They have two 19 year olds that could turn out to be the best two picks in the last two drafts.  Brandon Knight has proven himself an NBA player, if not necessarily a sought-after starter.  O.J. Mayo’s name continues to be worth at least a quarter of his $8 million dollar salary.  Tony Mitchell had a PER of 31.0 in the 10 minutes he played last year.  This could be great.

As far as to what actually expect: you know when you’re a kid (or 23) and you first discover self-serve soda fountains, and you put every different flavor, including unsweetened ice tea and the one that said “out of order,” into your cup?  That feels like what you’re getting here. The hope of youth and the chance to be good but more likely a strange mix that you’ll finish but not feel good about.  All of the elements are best enjoyed separately.

– O.J. Mayo continues to have the best name in the league.
– Zaza Pachulia has a great one too.
– Jabari Parker was exactly who the Bucks wanted.
– Larry Sanders may not return to “LARRY SANDERS!” but he’ll hopefully stop being “…Larry Sanders?” and hit something closer to “LaRrY sAnDeRs.”
– Giannis Antetokounmpo is still growing as a player and as a person made of body parts that are increasing in size.
– Dudley is looking to rebound (as in improve generally, not actually getting boards)
– Jason Kidd is a fundamentally ridiculous human being.

Remember when that Jason Kidd thing happened?  Me too.  We’re not going into that again.

The 2014-2015 Milwaukee Bucks: just have fun with it.

Looking for Bears – A Memphis Grizzlies Preview

*Cheesy background music begins playing as a blue background appears*

*The words “Nature in Our Backyard” fly onto the screen in yellow*

Gus: “Hello and Welcome to today’s edition of Nature in Our Backyard. I’m your host Gus Williamson.  Today’s episode will focus on one of North America’s most beloved wild animals. Bears”

“We are here in Memphis Tennessee which is home to all sorts of wonderful creatures, but we decided to come here because we had heard of a large bear infestation.  Now certain kinds of bears are common to this area, but we had been hearing reports of Grizzlies, which is quite unusual, as most of their population is in the extreme northwest of North America.  So we came down here to take a look and see what they’re doing here. Let’s see what we can find.”

“After hearing so many reported sightings I thought it might have been easy to find, but they were being very elusive.  We had staked out in the wilderness outside of the city for a week and didn’t catch a single sighting, making me question whether or not there were actual Grizzlies in this city”

“So we decided to take a different approach and ask some people on the street if they have heard of these animals or even if they had seen one in person.”

*Cut to Gus and local man on street corner*

Gus: “Hello there, I’m Gus Williamson, host of Nature in Our Backyard, and I was wondering if you perhaps had heard of or seen the Grizzlies that have been reported to be in this area?”

Man: “Yeah I saw them a bunch last year”

Gus: “Could you tell me perhaps about one of these encounters?”

Man: “Ok, sure. I saw them in person in December”

Gus: “December? That’s an unusual time for them to be out.”

Man: “That’s usually when I can see them.  They’re usually around here from September until April.”

Gus: “This is getting stranger and stranger by the second”

*Cut to stock footage of bears sleeping*

“These Grizzlies not only were in an area that they were not known to habitate, but they also became more active when they should be hibernating.  I continued asking people about them and my search began to become even more puzzling”

*Gus and Woman on street*

Woman:”Would I say they’re wild? Well…. I guess so. I have heard about them taking a swipe at a couple people”

*Gus and Man #2 on street*

Man #2 :”Yeah they’re ferocious. I watched them take on the Timberwolves and that was a fun matchup”

*Gus voiceover again*

“The more I asked people about these creatures the more amazed I was that people seemed to enjoy to have them around.  They had been fighting with all sorts of animals.  I heard a story about one that they called “Z-Bo” attempting to hit a man from Oklahoma who was visiting, but the locals blamed that man for the incident saying that he had been annoying the bear.

“I soon began asking around to see if I could find a history of these bears.  The stories of these bears all sounded relatively recent so I was trying to find when they migrated to the area.”

*Cut to Man #3*

Gus “When would you say these Grizzlies started appearing in Memphis?”

Man #3: “Oh they were relocated here from Vancouver back in 2001. Apparently the owner thought he could get more money from them down here”

*Voiceover*

Gus: “And now we know the truth.  These bears were brought down from Vancouver to try and extort the people in this region for money.  No matter who I asked, none of them could find a way for me to contact that man.  They tried to send me to a FedEx Forum, but I told them that while you can find lots of information on online forums, one being run by FedEx would not help very much.

I spent most of my time in this area attempting to catch a glimpse of one of them, and while people were trying to be helpful by showing me pictures of a bearded Spaniard who resembled a bear, I wasn’t able to see one.  But with all of the stories that I had heard I imagine they’ll be out terrorizing these citizens and their guests soon.  Hopefully next time I’ll be able to see them up close.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Nature in Our Backyard, next time we’ll be looking at a strange collection of Bobcats from North Carolina who seem to have mysteriously vanished. Thanks for watching! I’m your host Gus Williamson, see you next time!”

Transferring to the 2: A Brooklyn Nets Preview

The previous season’s Brooklyn Nets roster would have done a fine job… in 2008. Unfortunately, I happened to check the calendar and last year was not in fact 2008, but 2014. Well, 2013 but you get the point. They were old and they were hurt. This will be the Nets’ third season in the borough of Brooklyn and for all of the hype and fanfare, ambitions, and exorbitant payroll, all the Nets have done so far is a first round exit and a conference semifinal destruction courtesy of the Miami Heat. They probably wouldn’t have even gotten out of the first round last year if Paul Pierce hadn’t blocked Toronto’s Kyle Lowry in the dying moments of Game 7.

Brooklyn lost some players through free agency in the offseason. They lost Paul Pierce to Washington, which probably won’t hurt them a lot, but the truth can hurt sometimes. Also gone is Shaun Livingston to Golden State, who is a guy I feel the Nets will miss a lot. He was a revelation for Brooklyn; the Nets being 8.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the court and at times, he was arguably the best player on the court for Brooklyn. The biggest loss of them all, though, is the Filipino Phenom, the Manila Menace, Andray Blatche himself. Baltcheball instead will take his talents to the Silk Road and play for China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Go and spread your wings, Andray, and soar like all the tigers of the world do.

Brooklyn, like their cross-town rivals the Knicks, found their way into the 2014 NBA Draft by securing three second-round draft picks. Unlike New York, Mikhail Prokhorov threw all the money at the Timberwolves, Raptors, and Sixers in order to obtain those picks. With those picks, the Nets selected Markel Brown, Xavier Thames, and Cory Jefferson. Thames decided to play in Europe while Brown and Jefferson are on the current roster. The two of them are plenty athletic for a team in real need of it and both should see their share of opportunities over the course of the season to display what they can do.

The Nets also acquired Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from Cleveland as part of a three-team trade, sending Marcus Thornton to Boston in the process. Jack will take’s Livingston’s role as the backup point to Deron Williams and Karasev gives the Nets another young player to develop. The Nets also signed Croatian swingman Bojan Bogdanović from Turkish side Fenerbahçe. He had a great World Cup for Croatia and will look to build upon that in his first year in the States.

The biggest move the Nets made, however, was the shipping of coach Jason Kidd to the gulag… I mean Milwaukee for a second-round pick in next year’s draft and in the 2019 draft. Kidd wanted more control within the organization and that went over well with management like a fart in church.  The Nets then hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins to a four-year deal. This will be the Nets’ 4th head coach in the last three seasons. Hopefully, Hollins will able to bring some form of stability to the Nets.

Hollins’ Grizzlies teams were known for being big, tough, and defensive-minded; all of those the current Nets are lacking in. Those Grizzlies teams were also known for their play in the paint and aversion to three-point shooting, ranking dead last in percentage of FGA from 3-point range in 3 of the 5 seasons Hollins was in charge. By comparison, the Nets, using Kidd’s small ball system, ranked 4th last season. Of course, part of that can be contributed to the fact that the Nets have more shooters than the Grizzlies ever did, but surely that doesn’t change that Hollins will surely want his guys to take more shots inside the arc than outside of it.

Hollins have already committed to four starters, those being Deron Williams, seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. None of these guys played a full season last year. Williams was terrible, Lopez was probably on his way to a career year before his foot injury robbed him of that chance, and Garnett looked like an empty husk and probably should have retired in April. Heck, he should have retired immediately after this happened.

*Note: I instantly remembered after this, I forgot to mention Andrea Bargnani in my Knicks preview. I am truly sorry for my regrettable action, or in this case, inaction and to atone for my transgression, I will belt out the Italian national anthem a la Gianluigi Buffon or something like these fine ragazzi here at a later date.*

The fifth starter will probably be a competition between re-signed Alan Anderson and Bogdanović at the shooting guard position. The Nets really liked Anderson enough to sign him to a multi-year contract so signs are that he is possibly the favorite to start.

As for the bench, Mirza Teletović will be called upon to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting. Andrei Kirilenko, if healthy, should provide some of the hard-nosed defense that Hollins will appreciate. Marquis Teague and Jorge Gutierrez will most likely be called upon to do some things should D-Will miss games from injury. By the way, it seems like the Nets have some sort of Eastern European brotherhood going on in their roster with Bogdanović, Karasev, Kirilenko, and Teletović. If they develop well in Hollins’ system, I will christen them with the new name “Bloc Party”. Wait, that name is already taken? Damn it. Well, I’m sure I’ll think of something in due time.

The main guy off the bench, though, will be Mason Plumlee, who was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. squad at this year’s World Cup. He made the NBA All-Rookie team last year and with the past few months he has had, is expected to make a considerable leap this season. Hollins wants him to develop more of an offensive game, especially in the post. I expect him to eventually supplant Garnett in the starting lineup and if he can manage to expand his offensive repertoire and if Brook Lopez can stay healthy, the two can become an offensive frontcourt force for the future in the same way Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were for Hollins with the Grizzlies.

If all goes well on Flatbush Avenue, the Nets should find their way into the playoffs again. Even if some things fall apart, the Nets should be back in the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is a forgiving monster. Still, the Nets are far from being a contender in the East and though with Hollins as coach, the roster transactions during the offseason didn’t do much for me to change that.

Tango with the Triangle: A New York Knicks Preview

Ah, to be a Knicks fan. It’s like riding Disney World’s Tower of Terror. The name itself is an apt comparison but the ride is an even better one. Subtle bumps up intertwined with staggering crashes down, those crashes being a lot more frequent and impactful than the bumps. At the end, all you feel is pain and a tinge of regret, but for some sadistic reason, you also eagerly await the next time you ride it.

Did I mention it’s also prone to breaking down? That’s also a comparison.

Anyways, last season for the Knicks was an utter disappointment. Two seasons ago, the Knicks were the pride of the town, Mike Woodson was hailed as a savior, Carmelo Anthony was on his way to his first scoring title, and #KnicksTape was in full force. Unfortunately, last season happened and the Knicks Tape became more of a Knicks floppy disk, the defense looked like five James Hardens were on the court many a time, and Woodson was shucking and ducking his way out of Manhattan. Even longstay coach Herb Williams was shown the door. April in the blue and orange side of town was bleaker than an episode of Game of Thrones. Melo going all meganova on the Bobcats for the franchise record of 63 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. dueling with Dion Waiters were awesome moments that I was excited to watch live and that’s good and all… but when your season can be summed up by the following YouTube highlights such as this, and this, and this… It’s probably not been a good season at all.

Alas, there may be a silver lining in the orange and blue cloud of despair with the arrival of Obi-Wan… I mean new team president Phil Jackson and his pupil Derek Fisher, who will be the man leading the Knicks this year. With them comes the installation of the triangle offense. Seeing the Summer League Knicks run it seemed like a breath of fresh air. It ran with regularity, with fluidity, with purpose; basically everything that last year’s offense wasn’t. Also fun and I like fun; therefore this should make the Knicks a very interesting watch this year.

The Knicks did quite a bit of roster remodeling during the summer. Gone are Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas, Phil having possibly used Jedi mind tricks to get the latter off their hands. In return, the Knicks managed to get José Calderón, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert, and two of this year’s second-round draft picks, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Knicks fared very well in this deal, I feel. Calderón is an upgrade over Felton in nearly every way possible save for defense. Larkin, completely healthy, will continue to deputize Calderón as he did in Dallas and will be that change of pace point guard. In Dalembert, you have a solid rim protector, not to the level that Chandler once provided for New York, but should still give them some defensive presence in the paint. Many people consider Early to be a steal for New York when he was drafted as the 34th pick and certainly he has impressed in Summer League. Thanasis will probably start the season in the D-League this year but he’s energetic, athletic, and can become a solid perimeter defender. The Knicks managed to get a really good haul for two players who ran their course here in New York. Chandler at times seemed like he didn’t want to be in New York anymore and Felton was a burn victim due from nightly torchings by opposing point guards. And he was fat. And there was thing with the whole “illegal possession of firearms”*cue jokes like “How could he shoot a gun if he can’t even shoot a basketball?”*. And also this moment.

To be fair to Felton, he was probably stretching his jaw muscles for the all-you-can-eat buffet later that night… maybe.

The Knicks also traded fan favorite Jeremy Tyler and Wayne Ellington, acquired in the trade with Dallas, to Sacramento for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw. They then used their mid-level exception to sign big man Jason Smith from New Orleans, whose mid-range game will be of great service to the Knicks’ triangle.

There’s bound to be a lot of questions asked of this Knicks team so to the benefit of those reading, I’ll do a short FAQ and answer some of them to the best of my abilities.

Q: Can Melo thrive in the triangle the same way that Jordan and Kobe did?

A: Of course he can. I think he’ll need to be more active off the ball than we’re used to seeing but let’s be honest here, Melo would be dangerous in just about any kind of offense you put him in. He’ll be fine.

Q: Will J.R. Smith finally get it together?

A: He’s J.R. Smith.

Q: Will Iman Shumpert have a bounce-back season after a disappointing sophomore season?

A: I feel that he can. He’s at full health now after missing a good portion of last season due to injury. After the Texas trip, he faded liked his high top. He should be energized under this new offense where he’ll be able to do more than just stand at the corner.

Q: Will this be Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout year?

A: Breakout is kind of strong, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he will definitely improve on what was a solid rookie season. He showed little problems in adjusting to the triangle in Summer League, averaging near 23 ppg. He has more to his game than the 3-ball. He can attack the rim, pull-up from midrange, is an athletic freak, and if he improves on defense, he’ll be an invaluable asset for the Knicks for years to come.

Q: Will Amar’e Stoudemire be able to play a full 82-game season?

A: Hopefully, he can. He’ll probably have a minute limit of around 25 or so and he may not be able to play the second game of back-to-backs but if that’s what it takes to keep him healthy, then so be it.

Q: Will the Knicks continue to make trades during the season?

A: I don’t know if they will or not. Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert have been bandied about in trade rumors in the past months but I think the Knicks will stay put.

Q: What lineup do the Knicks roll with? Do they still try small ball and use Melo as PF?
A: I think Fisher will go with the traditional lineup. He has done so in Summer League and there’s not much reason to think things will be different in the regular season. Therefore, expect to see a lot of Melo at the 3. There will be rotation amongst the big men and the Knicks have plenty of them. The Knicks also have depth at both guard positions, especially shooting guard. Fisher is placing an emphasis on a consistent lineup.

Q: Will the Knicks make the playoffs this season?

A: It’s the Eastern Conference. Anything can happen.

Q: Fix the bloody defense!

A: Hey, that’s not a question! But yes, they very much need to, specifically their perimeter defense. Allowing 37% from 3 (4th worst in the league) is not desirable.

There’s a lot more questions but the main one that I’m sure many will be asking is “Will the triangle work in New York?” I don’t see why it couldn’t. You can draw a triangle using Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York as the three points. Go and do it! Also, a triangle is in their logo so anything is possible!

The thing with learning something new is that it takes time and effort. Some get it quickly while for others, it could take months. Look at another team from New York, the Giants, for example. They’ve introduced a brand new offense in the offseason yet it took until week 3 of the regular season to show some signs of progress. It will more or less be the same thing for these Knicks. The triangle is a rather complicated offense. It will be a learning process, both for the players and the coach. Team chemistry as well as staying healthy also play important roles towards the learning process; two things the Knicks didn’t have much of last season. However if the Summer League is anything to go by, if the triangle does come to form, the Knicks will be playing entertaining basketball. As long as owner Jim Dolan stays away from anything Phil does involving the team, the Knicks should have the city buzzing once again.