It wasn’t the kind of coaching debut that Derek Fisher had hoped for.
In the team’s preseason opener, the Knickerbockers played sloppy on both sides of the ball in a 106-86 loss to the Boston Celtics at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
“It’s not about the final score,” Fisher said after last night’s game. “It’s about how we can play, how we need to play. We didn’t do a lot of things well tonight.”
New York committed 28 turnovers in the first go-around of the triangle offense under first-time coach Fisher. The Knicks also struggled shooting the ball from the field by making only 40.6 percent, and were even worse from 3-point range by shooting a poor 5-24 from beyond the arc.
“We turned the ball over 28 times, which is kind of expected in our system,’’ Fisher said. “We’re trying to learn to play together. We anticipate there will be high turnover rates early until we get more comfortable. When you have 28 turnovers and still have 20 assists, it shows guys are trying to pass the ball. Regardless of the score, we want to show guys are willing to share the ball.’’
The defense for New York was not much better. The Knicks allowed the Celtics to hit 49 percent of its shots from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc. Fisher, much like Phil Jackson, has always stressed a commitment to defense since the day they were hired. The defense didn’t look much better than last year’s version under Mike Woodson.
“We didn’t do a lot of things right tonight, but I thought the guys’ intentions were right,” Fisher said. “We’re trying to get our guys to understand that defense is not tied to offense. But it helps if you play better offense, if you’re not turning the basketball over, it gives your defense a better chance. . . . But you have to be able to defend regardless of what’s happening on offense.”
Carmelo Anthony scored 10 points and played 20 minutes and was 3 of 9 from the field. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the leading scorer for New York with 18 points in 21 minutes played.
“It was the first time for us to get out there and play in a situation like that. We’re still learning on both ends of the court. We’ll be all right,” said Anthony.“I thought it was fun to play the triangle, but sometimes as a whole we were out there over-thinking a lot. It was just a first test for us. We’ll go back to the lab and get better.”
It is certainly understandable for the way the Knicks looked as they are learning a new system under a new head coach, and it’s the team first preseason game. There also plenty of new faces with the team this season.
“We were thinking too much, trying to do the right thing,’’point guard Jose Calderon said. “We knew it was going to take a while. For some of us, we haven’t played together. This is nothing to worry about. It’s just about timing. It’s not automatic.”
Calderon had a very impressive debut with his new team. The point guard scored nine points to go along with four assists, and had the highest plus/minus among the starters (a -3) in the blowout.
Fisher’s starting lineup featured Calderon, J.R Smith, Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, and Samuel Dalembert.
“We felt it was right to go this way, but we were honest with our players. We spoke to them about the fact that things can change,” Fisher said. “Don’t take this as a final way that we’re going to go with our starting lineup, but I think that J.R. deserves this look tonight.”
Bargnani had a very nice start with a couple nifty 3-point plays, but would struggle after that and ended up scoring 8 points in almost 30 minutes of action.
Amar’e Stoudemire started the second half instead of Bargnani with the other starters. Stoudemire showed some of power moves and finished with six points in about 14 minutes of game action.
With Iman Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. both battling injuries through training camp, it was J.R Smith who gets the first crack to get the starting shooting guard spot. The 2012-13 NBA’s Sixth Man Award winner finished with seven points in 19 minutes played. Smith feels that is still may take some time for everyone to understand the triangle.
It’s going to take a few months,” Smith said. “Over the course of the year, understanding where everybody is going to be, understanding that ‘some like it here, some like it like that.’ It’s going to take awhile.”
Both Fisher and Jackson have both said that getting everyone to play the triangle offense effectively will take it’s time. Smith echoed their view points after last night’s loss.
“I thought we were out there thinking too much instead of just playing. We have to put a little more trust in our front-office people, they set this team around the type of players we are and we have to trust our instincts more and just play. We all know how to get into our offense and just play the right way. It’s just a matter of when we get into it if they take something away, don’t get too anxious or too nervous and turn the ball over.”