Knicks Practice Report: Copeland Could Start On Saturday

Matthew Falkenbury

GREENBURGH, NY — The Knicks were back at practice on Friday afternoon to get some more work done in preparation for Saturday’s playoff opener against the Celtics at Madison Square Garden.

The biggest news surrounded a couple of Knicks who have been important members of the team, in terms of providing depth, this season.

The first bit of news was that Iman Shumpert missed practice for what the Knicks public relations department called “personal reasons.” It is expected that he will be able to play tomorrow according to Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson.

The other storyline will affect the starting lineup for the Knicks in Game One. Pablo Prigioni was called doubtful for Saturday’s game which means the possibility that Chris Copeland or James White could start in his place.

“[Copeland] or James White will get the nod…James had a good night the other night, so I feel comfortable with him and Chris has been playing really well, so we will see,” Woodson said. “I’ll sleep on it tonight and come up with the decision tomorrow.”

Copeland in the last two games, with most of the Knicks regulars on the bench, was the first Knicks rookie since Bill Cartwright in 1980 to have back to back games scoring over 30 points.

His offensive ability can be helpful for the Knicks as they can force the Celtics to not put all of their defensive focus on Carmelo Anthony.

“[Copeland] can make shots, he can put the ball down on the floor and get to the rim as well,” Woodson said. “It’s a double threat having him out there because [the Celtics] have to guard him out there and have to know where he is, so that’s a plus.”

The one thing that has come up this season with Copeland is his defense which at times has been an issue. He will probably be asked to guard Brandon Bass or Jeff Green and the better defense he plays, the more he could play in the playoffs.

“It’s the other end that I’m concerned about with [Copeland]. He has gotten better, but in the playoffs they’ll let you play and he has to mix it up,” said Woodson.

The Knicks know that the potential for the Celtics to have Paul Pierce and Green together in the starting lineup will make them a bigger team. If that turns out to be the case, that would make them difficult to guard with the small starting lineup the Knicks have been using recently.

Having Copeland in the lineup will give the Knicks more size. Of course, how well he does guarding Green or Bass to open the game will be what Mike Woodson is looking for. If Woodson likes what he see, Copeland could get to see more minutes in the rotation going forward.

Copeland has been able to take the opportunity provided to him this season and run with it. He has not only been able to find his way on to an NBA roster but now he has possibly earned a spot in the Knicks starting lineup during the playoffs.