By: Randy Cruz (@cruzr83)
You can never over react in preseason, especially when its the first game of the preseason for your team. The Knicks finally kicked off their preseason schedule by entering Providence, Rhode Island to take on their rival the Boston Celtics.
Knowing that its common for the starters to not play minutes in these preseason games, which leaves plenty of room for the bench players to make their mark as some look to make the team roster, as well as improving their spot on the sub-in ladder.
At first glance, you can just tell this was a totally different Boston Celtics team, with new coach Brad Stevens coming in from Butler, new mix of players imported from Brooklyn in the Garnett-Pierce deal during the summer as well as newly drafted youngsters. The team is still without their All-Star Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL last season and there's still no timetable on his return.
From the Knicks perspective, without J.R. Smith (injury), this game gave the opportunity for two shooting guards, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr., to make an impact early on. According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, Shumpert, last years shooting guard starter, is currently in a battle with J.R. Smith for the starting two guard spot, as coach Mike Woodson says he can potentially go with Smith over Shumpert, indicating it can "expand his game."
Iman Shumpert definitely took that as inspiration heading into tonight's preseason game as he was the best player on the floor, going 7-7 from the floor, grabbing three rebounds, dishing out three assists and finishing with a team and game high 18 points. Shumpert displayed his three-point arsenal, hitting all three of his attempts from downtown.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., the draft pick from Michigan, came into the game and indicated why many Knicks fans were screaming for their team to select him when their number was called in the draft back in June. A deadly shooter from the outside, two and three point range, Hardaway, Jr. knocked down six of this ten shots tonight, including three from beyond the arc and when it came down to a much needed big shot, that man, Hardaway, Jr., was the go-to-guy as he knocked down the game winning shot, giving the Knicks the 103-102 victory.
Although its preseason game number one for the Knicks, you can make the case that with the J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr. trio on the wings, it'll be beneficial to the team, especially when Carmelo, Bargnani and World Peace are in the post. Even if one of those guys are cold from the floor, there's still two more shooters to worry about. All three are very capable of knocking down outside shots, as well as attacking the basket and creating their own shots.
This trio of shooters can be even more impressive if all are hot at the same time, but we'll have to wait until either late in the preseason or game six of the regular season to see all of them on the floor together.