New York Knicks David Fizdale
(Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)

Enes Kanter and Lance Thomas are the veteran leaders of a New York Knicks team that is quietly gaining confidence.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks are making an unmistakable commitment to the development of their young players. Player development is a phrase you will hear ad nauseam for the next seven months.

But while many people are focusing on the youth, Friday night’s skirmish with the New Orleans Pelicans underscored the importance of the veterans on the roster. David Fizdale was effusive with his praise of Enes Kanter and Lance Thomas — two key starters for New York. Regarding Kanter and Thomas, Fizdale said:

“Their leadership has just been impeccable. I don’t know how this would move without them right now. That’s how good they’re leading and buying into what I’m trying to do offensively and defensively, culturally. They’ve really stepped up into their role really well.”

The seven-year veteran is the linchpin defensively in a starting unit that needs someone to hold things together. The term “glue guy” is overused, but that’s exactly what Thomas does for this defense. Thomas is stepping into his role as a leader. Fizdale said of Thomas’ ability to lead:

“Lance is just, man, is he a good leader? He’s just a really good leader and those guys respect him big time. When he speaks the gym shuts down and everybody listens.”


New York Knicks

Lance is the longest-tenured Knick and he’s a veteran amongst a host of youngsters. His ability to lead this team is something to watch in the early stages of the season. Kanter was key in the winning effort against New Orleans, racking up 20 points and 15 rebounds — two nights after a dynamic 20-20 performance against the Brooklyn Nets.

So far, so good for the Knicks in the preseason. They’re 3-0 and although preseason is meaningless in the end, Kanter isn’t downplaying the success they’re having. Kanter believes they’re improving with each passing day. That’s ultimately what training camp and the preseason is for. It’s beneficial for a young team to play well and improve, even if these wins will be forgotten soon.

Not many are picking the Knicks to win many games this season. Vegas is setting their over/under wins total around the 29.5 mark. This is already being written off as a rebuilding year by many, but don’t tell Fizdale that.

“I wanna win everything. I wanna win every game. These guys are building habits right now and winning is a habit. I don’t care anytime we step on the court or they decide to play checkers together, pool, ping pong, I want them competing and I want them competing to win.”

Like it or not, the Knicks are quietly building confidence this preseason. Yes, the results are meaningless and the statistics are wiped, but there’s an energy around the team. The enthusiasm in the building is palpable.

The Knicks will play the Wizards at home on Monday and close out the preseason at home against Brooklyn on Friday. But on Oct. 17, the real test begins. The Knicks start off the season with two winnable games at home against the Hawks and in Brooklyn to take on the Nets.

The Second Unit

Allonzo Trier’s numbers (seven points on 2-for-7 from the field) didn’t stack up to his 25-point performance against the Nets, but it’s abundantly clear that he can play. He hasn’t looked overmatched and his ability to create his shot is something special. It’s still unclear if he will remain on his two-way, but Fizdale reiterated in his postgame press conference that the Knicks will “keep the best players for their team.”

Noah Vonleh is on a partially guaranteed deal, but he’s playing his way onto the roster. He’s showcased his athleticism and punctuated his double-double on Friday with a thunderous dunk.

Joakim Noah is still away from the team. The belief is that he will eventually be bought out of his contract, but it has yet to happen.

Kevin Knox struggled on Friday, but he continues to show flashes of greatness. On a steal, the rookie had a wide open dunk but failed to convert. Growing pains are part of the development though. Knox played just under 35 minutes and Fizdale said it wasn’t predetermined that the rookie would play so long. Fizdale said, “I just kinda went with it.”

Former Knicks, Jarrett Jack and Troy Williams did not see much time in their returns to Madison Square Garden. Jack did not play due to a coach’s decision and Williams only played the final 1:05 in the fourth quarter.

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