Raptors beat Knicks for best preseason record

DeMar DeRozan scores 15 points, Raptors beat Knicks for 6th straight preseason win

      
 

 

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Iman Shumpert Cleared for Takeoff with Phil Jackson’s Knicks

This is it for Iman Shumpert. The big contract year. The one that could determine his value next summer when he’s slated for restricted free agency. 

That’s when the Knicks must choose whether or not to commit and match any offer he receives from other teams. 

Not that motivation was ever an issue with Shumpert, but man—if he’s ever going to make that jump, this is the year to make it. 

To no surprise, the Knicks actually need Shumpert just as badly as Shumpert needs a good season individually. From a personnel standpoint, the Knicks did nothing this offseason to improve the team’s defense, and Shump remains the top perimeter defender on the roster.

The opening starting spot alongside Jose Calderon in the backcourt was essentially meant for Shumpert to win, given the lineup’s lack of two-way players and constant energy. 

And maybe now with better direction from the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, and a system that allows him to play a bit more to his strengths, Shumpert will be able to fulfill some of that promise he created as a rookie.

Jackson put on his scouting goggles to discuss Shumpert‘s fit and development, via ESPN’s Charley Rosen:

Even though Iman Shumpert was in [former Knicks coach] Mike Woodson’s dog house for much of last season, he’s one of my favorites because he’s simply our best on-ball defender at the 2 position and also against the bigger 1s. Once he learns the intricacies of the offense, Iman will be able to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and, unlike last season, he’ll know where his own shots will come from. Iman is an excellent driver but his shooting mechanics are very inconsistent. Sometimes he jumps too high to release his shot and sometimes he doesn’t jump high enough. As a result, he never shoots the same shot twice.

The key takeaway from Jackson’s report is his belief that Shumpert will now know where his shots will come from. 

He didn’t last year under Mike Woodson, whose offense emphasized isolation and improvisation—not exactly Shumpert‘s bread and butter.

The Wall Street Journal’s Chris Herring noted how more than “30% of his turnovers last year were the result of him having lost control of the ball, the second-highest rate in the NBA among starting shooting guards, according to Basketball-Reference.com.”

If Jackson’s triangle works the way it should, the system will create Shumpert‘s scoring opportunities—not his own dribble. 

While many young players need coaches or executives to remove their metaphorical straitjackets, Shumpert actually needed someone to put one on him.

There’s a lot more structure within this offense, something that should benefit Shump, given his inefficiency over the past two seasons. Shumpert‘s field-goal percentage dropped to an ugly 37.8 percent last year, while his scoring averaged dipped to just 6.7 points a game. 

Realistically, the Knicks don’t need Shumpert to go out there and drop 20 every night. They’re just looking for some consistency—someone they can rely on to knock down open shots and capitalize opportunistically on the plays that come his way within the offense. 

Because new coach Derek Fisher will have to roll with Shumpert whether he’s making shots or not. His defense simply holds too much value in a rotation with guards and wings like Calderon, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Shane Larkin

Herring noted the ridiculous difference in the team’s defensive rating when Shumpert was on the floor last year versus when he was off it:

New York played good defense, allowing just 101.8 points per 100 plays, with Shumpert on the court last year, per NBA.com. The Knicks were a dumpster fire without him, though, giving up 111.1 points per 100 possessions without him. To put into context how disparate that gap is, consider the fact that, on a team level, a 9.3-point difference would be equivalent to the difference between Chicago Bulls’ defense and the Philadelphia 76ers’ defense last season.

Bottom line: Shumpert has to play regular minutes to help balance out the team’s defensive limitations. Only 6.7 points on 38.7 percent just isn’t enough in that time on the other side of the ball. 

He’s capable of doing better. We’ve seen him do better. 

And a new coach and system sure can’t hurt his chances. 

“I’m receptive to all their information because they’re the ones who are teaching us this new offense,” Shumpert told Fred Kerber of the New York Post. “I can’t really depend on everybody else. …Can’t let anything bad get inside. Keep feeding yourself with positivity.”

The stars have really aligned for Shumpert, despite having regressed since his rookie season. He now has a coaching staff that seems to value him slightly extra, along with a better passing point guard and a more defined role on the team. 

It’s officially liftoff time for Shumpert, who’s been seemingly running in place since tearing his ACL back in 2012. 

From a glass-half-full perspective, he’s already had a couple of strong outings during preseason, including most recently against the Washington Wizards when he scored eight points in 14 minutes.

Now entering the 2014-15 season with a clean slate, here’s to hoping that Shumpert relocates some of his lost offensive game and confidence. It could go a long way for a team that’s still counting on J.R. Smith as its No. 2 option. 

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What We’ve Learned About 2014-15 New York Knicks so Far

Perfecting the triangle offense is a challenge that may take months before coming to fruition. 

While Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jason Smith appear to be great fits for head coach Derek Fisher’s offense, a couple of players continue to struggle with the system.

Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith need more time adapting, while Quincy Acy looks like a possible X-factor. 

Many view this season as a transition period for the New York Knicks, but the potential to exceed expectations is greater than some are imagining. 

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New York Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors 10/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The red-hot Toronto Raptors looked to score another preseason victory on Friday night, when they faced the New York Knicks. The Raptors had won six of seven preseason games, but faced a tough test from Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. 

Watch the video for full highlight

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Jose Calderon Must Be Lynchpin of New York Knicks’ Triangle Transition

Jose Calderon has his work cut out for him in his first year wearing blue and orange. Assuming his calf strain doesn‘t prevent him from suiting up next Wednesday for opening night, Calderon is the likely choice for the New York Knicks‘ starting point guard. 

A star he is not. But since creating shot opportunities for teammates is a responsibility shared by every single player in a triangle offense, it can take some pressure off a point guard. He doesn‘t need the court command of Steve Nash or the speed of John Wall. He doesn‘t have to create assists like Chris Paul, shoot like Steph Curry or drive the lane like Derrick Rose.

That doesn‘t mean he can be just any chump in a jersey, though. 

Calderon is no chump. He’s got those mysterious, magical things that all coaches love: intangibles! And he’ll need them all this season.

During preseason, Knicks players have spoken of the triangle with great tranquility and optimism, sunshine and daisies. Yet once the losses start to count next week, that peaceful attitude could degrade into panic if the offense isn’t as smooth as Amar’e Stoudemire’s skin after a wine bath.

When they fall behind, the players may choose to abandon the new strategy instead of perfect it. They might devolve into iso madness, every pass going to Carmelo Anthony, every shooter trying to single-handedly win the game. (I’m lookin‘ at you, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Carmelo Anthony!)

Calderon’s main job will be to set the tone. Keep them honest when they start to abandon the game plan. Keep them inspired when they’re worn out.   

Another charge will be to get ‘Melo involved in the offense without shifting to isolation ball. Thus far, Anthony has shown a real commitment to executing the triangle, thinking “pass” before “shoot”—often to the surprise of his teammates, who aren’t expecting the ball to come to them once it touches his hands. Yet ‘Melo is still the star, and one of the best natural scorers in the league.

As Derek Fisher explained, per Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

As a coach, that is my job, to help everybody realize, that we have to figure out a way to blend this together that doesn’t put Carmelo on an island and put the rest of the guys on another island. We have to really be on the same page.

If it’s Fisher’s job from the sidelines, it’s Calderon’s job on the hardwoood. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports’ ProBasketballTalk wrote, “Calderon is a pinpoint passer, careful ball-handler and sweet shooter. If you were designing the ideal complement to Melo offensively, he’d look something like Calderon.”

Striking the right balance will be essential. If Calderon cannot control this by always having his hands on the ball—which would defy the triangle’s rules about ball movement—he can encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior with effective communication. 

Fortunately, these are areas where Calderon shines. As Dwane Casey, who coached Calderon while he played for the Toronto Raptors, said, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, ”He is one of the most beautiful leaders I’ve ever been around. Very knowledgeable… he’s a guy that you remember as a player, he was a big part of what we started here and kind of set the tone.” 

In his own words, via the New York Post’s Steve Serby, Calderon said, “You gotta play for the name you got in the front [of the jersey], not in the back.” 

As long as the rest of his teammates have that same attitude—and the jersey designers don’t start putting last names on the front—the Knicks have a better chance to run a successful triangle offense than any team since Phil Jackson left the Lakers.  

 

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Can Carmelo fit into Knicks’ triangle offense?

Phil Jackson gets defensive about his 11-title system. But Carmelo Anthony is different.

      
 

 

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Can Carmelo Anthony fit into Knicks’ offense?

Phil Jackson gets defensive about his 11-title system. But Carmelo Anthony is different.

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

What the NY Knicks’ 2014-15 Starting Lineup Should Actually Look Like

First-year New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher knows which question he needs to answer, but after six preseason games he has yet to find the solution.

With the complexities of the triangle offense and the puzzle-piece roster that never really fit during last season’s 45-loss debacle, the coach has stressed the importance of stability in his opening lineup.

“I do believe in having consistency in your starting lineup,” Fisher told reporters earlier this month. “… It’s my belief that players respond better to consistency.”

Six games and four starting lineups later, that consistency still eludes this team.

“We’re still searching,” Fisher told reporters about nailing down his rotation. He added that selecting a starting 4 is “definitely still a work in progress.”

Ready or not, the regular season is coming quickly. The Knicks have less than a week to prepare for their season-opener on Oct. 29 and only Friday’s tilt with the Toronto Raptors left on their exhibition schedule.

Fisher needs to find his five. Considering how much he has on his plate already, though, we went ahead and found them for him.

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Which New York Knicks Player Will Make Biggest Leap in 2014-15?

The New York Knicks expect to make a significant improvement in 2014-15 on their poor showing last season, but to do so they’ll require a number of individual players to raise their performances big-time.

Fortunately for the Knicks, they have a handful of young players we can realistically expect to improve this year, especially with the likes of Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons on the coaching staff and Phil Jackson in the front office.

Let’s go through a few of New York’s top prospects and predict who will make the biggest leap in 2014-15.

 

Iman Shumpert

For the last few years, Iman Shumpert has been the Knicks’ marquee prospect, but after multiple injuries and a huge blow to his confidence under Mike Woodson, things have not been easy for him.

Ideally with a new head coach, new offensive system and a generally less tumultuous environment, Shumpert will be able to flourish moving forward, but there are no guarantees. He needs to assert himself and make good on his obvious talent and athletic ability, as there’s only so much difference outside changes can make if he doesn’t get involved.

According to Hollinger’s stats on ESPN.com, Iman Shumpert‘s usage rate of 13.5 last season ranked him 63rd out of 70 qualifying shooting guards, so it’s no surprise he was only able to average a career-low 6.7 points per game.

With that said, it was only 18 months ago that Shumpert made a very impressive return from his first knee surgery, improving his stroke to the tune of 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 2012-13. That kind of development is still very possible, especially with the chance for a fresh start in the Knicks’ new era.

The triangle will bring ball movement, so while Shumpert tends to struggle creating for himself, he should have plenty more opportunities as a spot-up shooter on the wing.

Defensively is where New York should really want to see Shump step up. It already has enough offense at the 2 spot with Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith, but a defensive stopper on the wing could make a huge difference on that end of the floor.

Shumpert has certainly shown flashes of great defense. Even through his struggles last season, he was arguably the team’s best wing defender. His defensive win share of 1.6 according to Basketball-Reference.com ranked him behind only Tyson Chandler and (believe it or not) Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks’ roster.

If he learns the new system quickly and gets the support he needs from Fisher and Company, there’s no reason Shumpert shouldn’t at least improve his efficiency on offense and make some serious strides toward his All-Defensive potential in 2014-15.

 

Tim Hardaway Jr.

While Shumpert is looking to bounce back from a tough campaign, Hardaway is looking to build on a very strong start to his NBA career after earning a spot on the All-Rookie team.

Drafted at No. 24 overall, Hardaway has quickly earned a “virtually untouchable” label in the eyes of the Knicks’ organization, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com, which isn’t really surprising considering the offensive potential he displayed in his rookie season.

Hardaway struggled to get minutes behind Shumpert and Smith early on but finished the season averaging 15.8 points per 36 minutes, fantastic numbers for an inexperienced player.

Plenty of work still needs to be done, namely increasing his efficiency and diversifying his game outside of the three-point shot, which will almost certainly be his focus this season.

In summer league, we saw Hardaway take a leadership role as one of the “veterans” of the Knicks roster, occasionally running the offense and taking it upon himself to get to the rim as opposed to simply waiting outside for a shot opportunity to present itself.

It’s clear that Hardaway has bulked up over the summer, which will no doubt help him continue to attack the basket, but he plans to use that to his advantage on the defensive end too, which is great news for New York.

Depending on how minutes are distributed, it’s very possible that we could see Hardaway increase his scoring to around 15 points per game, ideally coupled with a raise in field-goal percentage.

Hardaway appears to be one of the most confident and motivated players on the roster, which will surely work in his favor. Time will tell, but it appears that the Knicks have unearthed a gem in Hardaway, which should show during his 2014-15 performances.

 

Shane Larkin

While Shane Larkin wasn’t a member of the Knicks in his rookie season, it’s still very possible that he could improve on his season with the Dallas Mavericks.

Larkin broke his ankle before he could even play a game for the Mavericks, eventually playing only 48 games that season. He never really had a chance to build momentum for himself and with a solid guard rotation ahead of him managed just 2.8 points and 1.5 assists per game.

Now that he’s had time to fully heal and work with Fisher in the triangle offense, we should see more of Larkin‘s raw ability in 2014-15. We’ve already seen his lightning speed in preseason; there’s no doubt he’s one of the fastest players in the entire league.

Running the triangle in what is essentially his second rookie season is not an easy task, but according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, New York actually likes the way his speed occasionally pulls the team out of the offenseto the point where they’re favoring him over Pablo Prigioni as Jose Calderon’s backup.

Once he gets into his rhythm, Larkin can make a huge difference for the Knicks. They’ve been one of the slowest teams in the league for a while now in large part due to their makeup at point guard. Paired with the rest of the team’s young players, he has the potential to transform the second unit into a high-energy machine.

It may be cheating considering how little Larkin got to play in his rookie season, but if he earns a role in the rotation, Larkin‘s production should shoot up rather significantly in New York.

 

Quincy Acy

Like Larkin, Quincy Acy wasn’t on the Knicks last year, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s turning heads this preseason.

When he was acquired along with Travis Outlaw, it seemed the Knicks just wanted to get rid of Wayne Ellington’s contract, but as it turns out they may have actually received a solid forward for very little in return to the Sacramento Kings.

According to Berman, Acy has a good chance of starting for New York at power forward with Carmelo Anthony moving back to small forward to accommodate the triangle offense.

Grit is the name of the game for Acy, a former second-round pick who’s undersized for the 4 spot. The Knicks could really use a player like that in the frontcourt to pull down rebounds and play physically on the defensive end.

Acy isn’t the most talented young player on the roster, but his energy alone will make a huge difference for the Knicks, and the opportunity to start should lead to a significant improvement on his career numbers of 3.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

 

The Verdict

The good thing for the Knicks is that they suddenly have a nice collection of young talent, which will help significantly in their rebuildingor rather retoolingprocess.

It’s possible that New York could see improvements across the board from its young players, but the primary player to focus on is Shumpert, who’s at a crossroads in his young career.

The Knicks have a huge decision to make in 2015 regarding Shumpert, while the pressure is on him to prove himself worthy of a new contract when the focus will be on adding talent in free agency.

As far as all-around talent is concerned, Shumpert has displayed more than any other player on this list. The issue for him is turning that talent into consistent production on both ends of the floor.

With no surgeries this offseason and a system more suited to his style of play, we should see Shumpert bounce back in 2014-15 and remind everyone just how important a player he is to the franchise’s future before he hits restricted free agency.

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Washington Wizards vs. New York Knicks 10/22/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Washington Wizards looked to break out of their preseason slump on Wednesday night, when they faced the New York Knicks. John Wall and company had dropped two straight games, and faced a tough test from a Knicks squad led by superstar Carmelo Anthony.

Watch the video for full highlights. 

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