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Trail Blazers vs. Knicks Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers look for their second win in a row against a revamped New York Knicks team.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers look to carry the momentum from one of their better games of the year into the city that never sleeps as they face the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

Of late, the Knicks have gone from “pretty good” to “solidly good,” winning their last four games since trading RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickly to Toronto for OG Anunoby, and three of those by double-digits, the lone exception coming against the surprisingly stout Minnesota Timberwolves. According to people smarter than me, the Knicks aren’t done, and the Anunoby trade was but a precursor to an even bigger move before the NBA’s February 8, 2024 trade deadline.

Can the Blazers build on a good thing? Or is the Knicks finally being good for the first time in generations just too much to overcome? Tune in to find out!

Portland Trail Blazers (10-25) vs. New York Knicks (21-15) - Tue. Jan. 9 - 4:30pm Pacific

How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass

Trail Blazers injuries: Matisse Thybulle, Jabari Walker (questionable); Deandre Ayton (doubtful); Robert Williams III, Moses Brown (out)

Knicks injuries: Mitchell Robinson (out)

Knicks SBN affiliate: Posting and Toasting

Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions

As has been Blazer’s Edge tradition since Bill Walton had his bike stolen during the Blazers’ championship parade, we’re asking you all to toss some questions at us for the game previews! Look for posts just like this one the night before the game, and we’ll plan to pick one or two (or more!) every game and answer them as best we can.

From icrra:

We have several rookies in our rotation. Is fatigue from the longer NBA season starting to set in? What does the team to do mitigate this? It feels like this may be a part of the recent slump.

I’m not sure I’ve seen data that YOUNGER players are more susceptible to fatigue than their older counterparts... though there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that players do need to adjust to the rhythm and the very lengthy NBA season, so it wouldn’t shock me. More likely the slump is caused by a number of intersectional factors: injuries messing with the lineups, young players learning the NBA game, and a coaching staff that still has yet to build a cohesive identity for how this team wants to play. For all of the harping we heard (especially early in Chauncey Billups’ tenure) about at least having a defensive identity, with the Blazers sitting at 19th in defensive rating, we haven’t even seen that... but to be fair, it’s mostly the injuries and the roster, simple as that.

From Treyblazer:

Does Brogdon move the needle towards contention for the Knicks? Will Fournier, Sims and the 2025 frp get it done?

He helps for sure, but if you don’t think the Knicks are a contender now, I’m not sure Brogdon pushes them over the top. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Brogdon wearing orange and blue come spring, and the return he gets will be highly dependent on the market around Brogdon (players at his position who are also likely to be moved) and how many teams want to make a push to go for it this year specifically. While my Blazers fan brain says the return you described isn’t enough, part of me understands fans overvalue our players and ALSO wants the playing time in front of Scoot Henderson to ease, and I probably want that more than I want Cronin to play hardball on a return for Brogdon.

From LeftCoaster25:

Does the soul actually exist, or is it an invention of the human mind?

FINALLY, a real basketball question!! I have thought about this a lot, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Ɔ̵̢̬̝̗̤̈́̈͂̄̀ǫ̷̲͚͔̲͑͂̋̈́͋ɿ̵̛̰̝͍̲̻̈́̀̓̆ɿ̸̛̬̭̝̙̩̽̒̂͝υ̸̢̘̞̳͇̍̀̔̇̀q̸͖̻͍̜̝̂́̄̍͝Ɉ̶̨͖̣͚̋̑̍̉͑ͅɘ̷̱̥̥̗̣̎̑̽͐̕b̴̛͙̞̟̞̬̋̋͆Ә̶̼͓̝̙̹̽̊̎͂̇ɘ̴̢̣̪̞͈͂͆̂͝͝n̸̟̤̰̰̍̾̈́́̕ͅɘ̴̤̫̫̠͈̉̄͆̂͝ɿ̵̨̛̱̬̰͉̽̒̄̀ɒ̷͕͉̬̮̥̈̌͌̋͝Ɉ̷͚̱̗̮͈̽̐̀̿̓o̴̡̜͕̝̘͒̊̀͝͠ɿ̵̨̛͎̤͔̮̽̈́͛̎.

From Corvid:

Which fashion-forward NBA players have worn actual knickerbockers to the arena? Russ? SGA? There must be someone in NYC who tracks Madison Square Garden tunnel stats, right?

I wish I knew the answer to this or even how to find it, but let’s all remember that once upon a time the Knicks’ mascot was, in fact, this fashionable fellow:

About the Opponent

Fred Katz of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote about Julius Randle’s burgeoning All-Star candidacy after beginning the season in a slump:

After a frigid start to the season, Randle has morphed into a one-man stampede. He’s making a case for his third All-Star appearance in four years, and he’s doing it while living at the rim. The new version of Randle prefers deeper post-ups, ones around the paint instead of the distant ones he once accepted with a shrug. He catches the ball on the move more, an initiative from head coach Tom Thibodeau, who for nearly a half-decade has encouraged Randle to be more active without the rock.

Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School put together a comprehensive piece recapping the Knicks’ win over the Wizards and a lot more, including this anecdote about Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau:

We know Thibs has his guys. He always has. Post-trade, that’s become more apparent than ever. Last night, as things began to get away from them in the third quarter, Thibodeau made exactly one substitution: Josh Hart for OG Anunoby. The other four starters played the entire third, but even after the Knicks righted the ship, both Hartenstein and Randle remained on the court to start the fourth. Anunoby came in for Julius at the 10:44 mark, but I-Hart remained, and when he finally needed a breather after playing nearly 17 consecutive minutes to start the second half, it was Randle, not Precious Achiuwa, who entered the game as a small ball five. That alignment lasted all of 65 seconds as Washington cut the lead to 10, and back came Hartenstein to help close the door.

Antonio Losada of Posting and Toasting speculates that the Knicks waiving Taj Gibson might open the door to his return on New York’s bench:

Back when he signed with the franchise last month to play an ancillary rotational role as a backup center, Gibson said that he was “still considering [coaching],” although only in “the right situation. He highlighted the current Knicks’ coaching staff as an ideal one for him to eventually join if he decides to call it quits and transition into a coaching role. “I want to be somewhere where I can learn, brighten my future,” Gibson said on Dec. 15. “This is a bright spot for me, being around the coaching staff who I can learn from. … Here I’m so locked into the coaching staff. They basically taught me how to be a pro. It only fits right where I can learn, just fall right into place.