Game Time: 4:30 p.m. Pacific TV: CSNW
Here are the five guys you need to know on the Knicks roster:
- Amare Stoudemire is new to the Knicks this season. He needs no introduction to Portland fans. He's the guy who can drop 30 on the Blazers in a blink. He's the guy who uses LaMarcus Aldridge as his personal handkerchief. He's the guy who can terrorize the offensive boards if you let him. He's the guy who, along with Shaquille O'Neal, seems to laugh behind his hand at the Blazers whenever they meet. He's good for 20 a night. He's no good for defense and occasionally loses track of the game altogether, resulting in efforts as curious as a William Shatner Beatles cover.
- Wilson Chandler is the incumbent Knick star...or at least star in waiting...or at least star in waiting in his own mind. He's a good-sized, good rebounding small forward who can also score in droves when he's comfortable. The difference between this year and those past is that, in the absence of Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford and Al Harrington and all of the other name-level scorers who used to populate this roster, Chandler is going to put up shots whether he's comfortable or not. It's his turn...alongside Amare, that is. He's not a great defender but he's improving.
- Raymond Felton is the upper-level journeyman point guard from Charlotte who prides himself on offense, first scoring and then gobs of assists. As long as he gets his he's going to be productive and happy. He's a spotty defender as well.
- Danilo Gallinari is the 6'10" Euro, the only regular with a bankable three-point shot, whose jobs is finding seams and shooting in or through them. He's one of the bright, young hopes for the Knicks but has had a slow start so far this year. He's not a great defender either.
- Carmelo Anthony is the guy coming from Denver as soon as the Knicks can find assets to bring him. He's supposed to combine with Stoudemire to score a billion points and get New York to the post-season. He's a brilliant scorer, a proven playoff performer, and (sigh) plays defense intermittently. He's not here yet but his arrival is going to disrupt whatever continuity this lineup has.
That last part is important because looking at this roster the first impression is that these guys all have talent but their fit is not guaranteed. With Stoudemire the only A-List player on the team the Knicks aren't going to out-talent anybody. Their success depends on how quickly and strongly they can meld together. This is particularly true on the defensive end where their individual skill wouldn't buy a cab ride from Rockefeller to St. Patrick's. When they're clicking they play a decent game. So far they've beaten a fairly humble Raptors squad and held close with a less-than-motivated-looking Celtics bunch before losing. But during stretches where they're looking over their shoulders--at the coach, at the opponent, at the refs, or worst of all at each other wondering who will get the next shot--they're going to look bad. A group of guys who like their own looks, don't shoot deep, aren't natural defenders, and don't know how long they'll be together is not a recipe for success. This team isn't bad. It's certainly better than recent vintage Knicks squads. They just don't have the environment, and maybe not the personnel, to exploit their possible successes.
If the Blazers can play more cohesively than the Knicks Portland should walk away with this game. Easy shots should be the order of the day unless the offense goes totally iso (in which case they better not miss because the Knicks can rebound). No Knick besides Felton will pass the ball so defense should be a matter of closely watching whoever tattoos the hardwood with his dribble on a given possession and not letting cutters so free that even a score-first guy can't help but give the alley-oop. One serious caution is New York's strong rebounding and physical play potential. Stoudemire, Felton, and Chandler are strong guys. The Blazers have to be willing to scrap and fight a little. They can't expect a cakewalk or they won't get one. But a couple of well-timed shoves, a few hard-earned rebounds, a little speed and unselfishness on offense, and even a modicum of defensive backbone should see the Blazers through this one. I suppose the other caveat is that LaMarcus Aldridge can't completely disappear. Batum and Roy are going to need his help on either end. He doesn't have to outscore Amare but he needs to play his full game.
The Jersey Contest game form is here. Don't forget the 4:30 Pacific start!
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