After eclipsing a .750 winning percentage in preseason, the New York Knicks kick-off the regular season this week. The schedule makers made things awfully difficult for the Knickerbockers as the open up the season on the road against the Indiana Pacers before moving to a home back-to-back with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks. This young team will be tester early and tested often against the league’s best.
Opening night in Indiana, the Knicks get their first look at last year’s fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers return many of their playmakers that made last season possible in TJ Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Victor Oladipo. The main difference being Nate McMillan being relieved of his head coaching duties following their elimination in the bubble last season. The move came as a surprise considering that McMillan had been extended by the club just 14 days before his firing. The team is now coached by Nate Bjorkgren, a former assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and before that, the Phoenix Suns.
The Pacers present a few questions for the Knicks that will decide the flow of Opening Night. The first of which is Domantas Sabonis against the rotating defensive centers in Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson. In his brief NBA career, Robinson has shown to be an excellent perimeter defender when he stays out of foul trouble, whereas Noel is your typical under the basket defensive center. If Coach Tom Thibodeau is going to rotate centers this seems like a better matchup for Robinson than Noel.
Beyond Sabonis, The Pacers are also looking to re-incorporate Victor Oladipo into their rotation. Oladipo spent much of last year injured and away from the team, and once he returned he found his bench role unappealing and even allegedly asking opposing teams to play for them. Including the Knicks. We will also see if the TJ Warren we watched in the bubble is the real TJ Warren or if it turns out to be a mirage.
Saturday and Sunday turn the schedule to a home back-to-back against two of the best teams in the league.The front end against the now Doc Rivers-led Philadelphia 76ers. Another year of running it back with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid for now, as they struggle to find an appropriate deal to reunite James Harden with Daryl Morey in the City of Brotherly Love.
The back end of the back-to-back is against the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo has signed his max extension and should be in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. Joining the Milwaukee Bucks is former New York Knicks legend Bobby Portis. Playing two games in consecutive days is difficult, but ending the third game of the year, where rotations are still to be determined, seems especially cruel of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Best Case Scenario to me is winning tonight in Indiana and staying close against Philadelphia. Let’s see the kids play big minutes and pray for Julius Randle to successfully complete one spin move.
GO NY GO NY GO.