After almost blowing a 23-point second-half advantage, the Knicks won their first preseason game, 103-102, last night against the Boston Celtics in Providence thanks to corner jumper from Tim Hardaway Jr. with 8.2 seconds left. Here are five storylines off the first of seven preseason games:
1. Shumpert shines
Questions loom about whether coach Mike Woodson will opt to start J.R. Smith over Iman Shumpert at the 2 and the coach is looking for a healthy competition between those two. “You can go back and forth,” Woodson told reporters, according to the New York Post. “I’m going to let the two fight it out.”
If that’s the case, Shumpert won Round 1 while Smith stayed home in New York while recovering from offseason knee surgery. The third-year guard looked very impressive, going for 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-3 from the arc. He was +17 on the night. “I changed when I came into the league, backed off a little,” Shumpert told reporters. “But that’s not who I am. I’m aggressive. This is more like me.” former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt told SNY.tv. “He’s going to be a major factor for them this year.”
2. Hardaway looks confident
With his father sitting courtside, Tim Hardaway Jr. showed great confidence in taking — and making — the eventual game winner en route to a 6-for-10, 16-point performance. “It was great,’’ Hardaway Jr. said, per the Post. “Everything you ask for and dreamed of came to reality. [My father] was out there scouting for the Heat and the same time supporting me. It was great to have a family figure out there.’’ Woodson has talked about how the team is deep at the 2/3 positions with Anthony, Metta World Peace, Shumpert, Smith and Hardaway Jr. all requiring minutes. Competition for minutes should be fierce, but you can never have enough scorers.
3. Chandler flashes the jumper
Determined to improve his limited offensive game and make amends for his poor play in the postseason, Tyson Chandler has been taking 600 jumpers a day. Whether that can become a reliable part of his arsenal at this stage of his career remains a question. But even if he can fake it and take the ball off the deck, or make a couple of jumpers a game, that would be a huge improvement and could change the Knicks’ offense. He took a 16-foot jumper — and made it — in the third quarter, which must be viewed as a positive.
4. Melo and Bargnani showed nice chemistry
Playing their first game together since Bargnani was obtained in the offseason, the two looked comfortable, hooking up when Melo passed from the wing to Bargnani (12 points on 3-of-8 shooting) down low for a dunk. Coach Mike Woodson is clearly a fan of the 7-foot Bargnani and talked this week about his ability to not only hit 3′s, but to score in the paint off pick-and-rolls. Given that Bargnani seems likely to start at the 4, it’s important for him and Melo to get in a comfort zone and jell.
5. Aldrich plays solid
Former Kansas big man Cole Aldrich was solid, if unspectacular, in backing up Chandler at the 5. He grabbed five rebounds and scored two points in 17 minutes.
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.