The New York Knicks may not win many games this year, but they have an opportunity to get off to a hot start.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Wins could be hard to come by for the New York Knicks this season. They are without their franchise player — Kristaps Porzingis — and the roster features a cadre of inexperienced players.
But the schedule makers have blessed the Knicks with an opportunity to burst out of the gates quickly. The Knicks open the season against the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, and Boston Celtics. New York’s young squad could end the first week of the season with at least a 2-1 record.
This would be a small accomplishment and that goes without saying. But little pockets of success for Fizdale to build on is exactly what this team needs. They will experience peaks and valleys as the season progresses. Fans would love to see the team start off with a peak — however low in elevation it may be.
Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., MSG
The Knicks open up another team in the midst of a rebuild. Much like the Knicks, the Hawks have a new coach — Lloyd Pierce — and a rookie to pin their hopes on — Trae Young. The Hawks and Knicks should both find themselves in the depths of the standings when April rolls around.
But that means that this game is an opportunity for the Knicks to protect their home court and start the season off with a victory. Trae Young is a uniquely gifted offensive talent and there’s always a chance that he shines under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
But Young won’t have his full team behind him. Starting power forward and 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie second teamer, John Collins will be sidelined for the opener following a non-surgical procedure on his ankle.
The Knicks should bring their full squad — minus Porzingis, of course. Tim Hardaway Jr. left the team’s final preseason game against the Nets on Friday, but he has no doubts about his status for Wednesday’s opener. He suffered a wrist injury, but the x-rays came back negative. When asked if there was any worry about missing opening night, Hardaway said bluntly:
“No. I am playing no matter what.”
Furthermore, despite the paltry record of 29-53 last season, the Knicks were respectable in front of the MSG crowd. The team finished last season 19-22 at home. Conversely, the Hawks were 8-33 last season.
Even when the Knicks are underperforming on the court, the home crowd always shows up. With the enthusiasm enveloping the fanbase, expect a raucous home crowd to give the home team a boost. The video below was the crowd during a preseason game with a reserve unit on the floor. It’s safe to say this crowd is juiced up.
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) October 13, 2018
Brooklyn Nets, Friday, 7:30 p.m., Barclays Center
The rivalry game. There seems to be a growing rivalry between the Knicks and Nets. It’s far from the type of epic rivalry that makes the average NBA fan circle the matchup on a calendar, but for Knicks and Nets fans, it means something.
The offseason chatter between Spencer Dinwiddie and Enes Kanter helped stoke the flames of the rivalry and the teams won’t have to wait long for the first of a four-part series between the teams.
Brooklyn should have the upper hand. They are better equipped to contend this season and they are the home team — a small advantage against the crosstown Knicks, but a slight advantage nonetheless.
Neither team will overlook this game and both will carry a chip on their shoulder into this one. The Nets feel like they’re the best team in New York this season and the Knicks are looking to prove that last year’s sweep of the Nets was no fluke. It’s notable that all four wins against the Nets came with Kristaps Porzingis in the lineup, but that should only serve to motivate the Knicks even more.
The Nets will be the favorites in this one, but the Knicks won’t make it easy on them.
Boston Celtics, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MSG
This is the toughest game of the week for the Knicks. There’s no doubt about it. If Boston isn’t the favorite in the Eastern Conference, they are amongst the top two or three squads. The Celtics are talented enough where they should be able to handle the Knicks, despite being on the road.
But that’s where this could get dicey for the Celtics. They face their two biggest challenges in the East — Philadelphia on Tuesday and Toronto on Friday. They travel from Toronto to New York for their matchup with the Knicks the following night. Back-to-backs are fickle things in the NBA. When both games come on the road, it’s even more of a challenge.
The Knicks play a back-to-back as well, but they have the luxury of playing in Brooklyn. They don’t need to deal with any travel and they get to sleep in their own beds.
To be clear, the Celtics will still come in as heavy favorites on Saturday, but the Knicks could manage to catch them on an off-night.
Wins won’t come easy this year. Everyone who has paid attention during the offseason knows that. But that doesn’t mean this team won’t be able to steal some wins when you least expect it.
The team faces a tough task in their opening week, but they have the opportunity to start the season off on the right note. With a couple winnable games — and perhaps a bit of luck — the Knicks can give the fans something to cheer about in the opening week of the season.