Having dealt Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are presumably finally going about rebuilding the correct way. The team’s core now consists of Kristaps Porzingis (22 years old), Tim Hardaway Jr. (25), Willy Hernangomez (23), and Frank Ntilikina (19).
But if the preseason is any indication, the Knicks will likely have a long loss-filled season at the cost of their newfound, and some would say long overdue, youth movement.
“We had a lot of turnovers the other night and that continued,” said Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek after being battered by Brooklyn. “They’re just soft passes, we’re not tough with the ball. I don’t know if they think guys aren’t going to reach up and try to deflect our passes or what. That was probably the biggest disappointment.”
On the flip side, the Nets’ early returns are near perfect.
Five days after defeating New York at Madison Square Garden in the preseason opener, the Nets outshot, out-hustled and outplayed the Knicks for 48 straight minutes back in Brooklyn.
For the duration of the contest, the Nets shot 50 percent from the floor (42-of-84), 42.4 percent from deep (14-of-33), and never trailed at any point outside of the opening minutes of the first quarter.
Across the board, the Nets and their newfound depth had key performances from a number of different players, which the team is leaning on to take the next step in their collective, organizational development.
D’Angelo Russell finished with 16 points, seven assists and three steals, ending the night shooting 7-of-14 from the floor despite a slow, inefficient offensive start.
Allen Crabbe starred in 11 minutes of action, his first as a Net, pestering the Knicks with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 3-of-4 from three.
Caris LeVert, who, like Crabbe, returned Sunday after being sidelined with a minor ankle injury, shot 5-of-8 in 18 minutes of play, ending with 12 points, three boards, and noticeably stifling defense.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (seven points, eight rebounds), DeMarre Carroll (12 points, 50 percent shooting) and Timofey Mozgov (11 points, five rebounds) were among other key contributors.
In contrast of the Nets, the Knicks only had three players in double figures and only shot 37.8 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from deep, hitting on 4-of-15 attempts.
Crabbe discussed the Nets’ new pace-and-space brand of basketball, which adapts to the evolving style of NBA play.
“We have a group of unselfish players,” Crabbe said post-game. “They call plays for me without me even asking them. Even in transition they’ll set a pick for me, and away screen. Just little things. I just feel like with the group of guys that we have, it’s all about unselfishness.”
It gives you a glimpse of what’s brewing in Brooklyn.
“I thought our defense was solid,” added Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “We turned them over a lot in the first half, that really started the ball rolling. Great activity, a lot of deflections, steals, high energy defensively, making some shots.”
On the defensive front, Russell agreed. The former Los Angeles Laker says that while offense may be the sexy focus, the defense is what really has gotten the Nets going in preseason.
And with one game left until the regular season starts, there’s no reason to believe it can’t continue.
“With all this talent that we have, all these guys that have the ability to score, if we all pride ourselves in getting stops in each possession, the offense is going to come,” said Russell. “Anybody is capable of putting up those numbers, so if that’s our main focus, we’ll be alright.”
After a contest against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 11 at Nassau Coliseum, the Nets will visit the Indiana Pacers to open the regular season seven days later.
The Knicks end their preseason on October 13 at home against the Washington Wizards, and they’ll begin their official 2017-18 campaign on October 19 in Oklahoma City, where they’ll face Carmelo Anthony in a drama-filled affair.