In the season’s opening week, New York Knicks fans got a sneak peek as to just how unpredictable this revamped 2016-17 team truly is.
The opening week of the 2016-17 NBA season was a mixed bag for the New York Knicks.
On one hand, they got shellacked by the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on opening night. One can argue that they were never going to win that game, especially on the road against a motivated LeBron James. Regardless of opponent and venue, however, a 29-point loss is no way to open a season.
On the other hand, they were victorious against a strong Western Conference opposition in their home opener, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 111-104. A wire-to-wire victory against a team that stands a good shot at a postseason berth in the ultra-competitive Western is no small feat.
So, at 1-1, the Knicks sit with a mix of positive and negative takeaways from the opening week.
Let’s start with the negatives, especially from that ugly opener in Cleveland. The defense, particularly in the second half, was shockingly bad. Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue’s halftime speech must have resonated well with the champs, who outscored the Knicks by 26 in the second half, and posted 34 and 35 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
The Knicks lacked defensive energy and cohesiveness, which is somewhat expected from a team that had barely played competitive basketball together.
The Knicks only return four major contributors from last season’s team: Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle O’Quinn, and Lance Thomas. The Knicks’ shiny new starting five of Anthony, Porzingis, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee had not played a single minute together — not even in the preseason.
It’s fair to say that the rust was expected.
There were other worrying results from the opener, however. Of all the Knicks who played, it was Porzingis who had the worst plus-minus ratio (-21). Lee and Noah, the two biggest free agent signings of the offseason, each went scoreless. The Knicks were also out-rebounded by nine and out-assisted by 14. Not great.
However, you have to respect the way the team bounced back. Huge performances from Porzingis, Rose, and Noah in game two of the young season showed how good this group can be. Noah, in particular, stole the show, recording six points, seven assists, 10 rebounds, and a team high +16 plus-minus ratio.
The entire starting five was strong, in fact, recording 76 of the teams 111 points. Speaking of 111 points, the Knicks reached that impressive number despite only making six three pointers and missing 11 free throws. Good stuff.
Additionally, there were a fair share of highlight reel moments that pumped some much needed electricity into the Garden crowd, such as Rose’s filthy crossover:
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) October 30, 2016
And Porzingis’ emphatic and-one slam dunk in transition:
— NBA (@NBA) October 30, 2016
So, after two games, the Knicks are 1-1, and chock full of storylines that still have yet to be fulfilled. Will the Knicks make the playoffs? It is still too early to tell, but if they play like they did against Cleveland, absolutely not. If they play like they did against Memphis, there’s a chance.
How about team chemistry and injury issues? As time goes on, it’s clear that team chemistry will improve, but history also suggests that key players might go down with injuries. How much can the Knicks squeeze out of Rose, Noah, and Brandon Jennings? Will Carmelo Anthony’s injury issues resurface?
For now, the Knicks still consist of more questions than answers, especially after two drastically different performances which can lead fans into two schools of thought as to how the season might play out. But, for now, all we as a fanbase must do is continue to monitor the team’s progression (or regression, perhaps) and see how they cope with the ups and downs of an 82-game regular season.