Last Friday, the NBA awarded the city of Montreal a gem when they gave us a preseason game involving the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. Obviously not the teams I would have hoped to see, but it’s still the NBA and it was an event worth attending (22,000 other people echoed that sentiment). I wanted to observe a few players during this game: Andrea Bargnani, Amare Stoudemie and Anthony Randolph. Let’s have a quick breakdown.
After seeing him on television after all these years, I can truly say that I was left completely unimpressed with his game. Don’t get me wrong, he had a decent scoring night: 15 points, 6-13 FGs and 3-4 3PT FGs . But he did little to help out his teammates. He was mostly static without the ball, never looked to create for others and was completely invisible on defense and on the boards (one rebound in 24 minutes) during the game. At seven feet tall, it’s intriguing to watch him shoot the ball, but he does little else on the court to contribute. Furthermore, his interactions with his teammates seemed awkward at best; he is more than anything a player that seems to listen and take directions as opposed to giving them. That’s perfectly fine if we’re talking about a role player but this guy is now the Raptors franchise player. It’s like going to see Ocean’s Eleven starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt except all the scenes involving dialogue are done by Bernie Mac (Jarret Jack). Needless to say, I don’t see the Toronto Raptors doing well this season.
Stoudemire is made for New York and you could even argue that New York was made for Stoudemire. The Knicks prized acquisition carries himself like a star. When players were starting out warm ups, Stoudemire was on the side by himself stretching out his legs a bit and doing a couple of sprints. I even made the joke with my friend Karim that his contract is probably going to be a problem within the team because no one makes as much money as he does, and thus cannot hang with him. A completely innocent session of sprints and stretches seemed to illustrate exactly what I was talking about.
Once the game started, Stoudemire made it clear that he would be the best player on the court. He went to make a few ball screens with the hopes of being on the receiving end of a few pick and rolls; but once that failed early, Stat moved on to plan B and asked for the ball in a variety of locations on the court with the end result all being the same: buckets. The former Suns center took the ball in the high post, pinch post and also a few times at the wing; and not once did he hesitate. Stoudemire was decisive in every one of his moves, as he kept evading the help defender to consistently get into the paint. After a tough day at the office, Stoudemire finished with a few dunks (one of which was a put back off a three point shot), lay ups and some “and ones”; good for 24 points on nine of 12 shooting from the field. Knicks fans will enjoy the Stoudemire era, especially during home games.
Random observation: By the way, we have heard stories in the past about players such as Kevin Garnett picking up the bill for some of his teammates, but I struggle to imagine the Knicks power forward doing so. And oddly enough, that’s how he plays. Go figure right?
He clearly has talent and could potentially do a plethora of things on the basketball court, but he has yet to put it all together. For instance, I watched him block a shot at the rim, pick up the ball, lead the break but then turn the ball over. So he still has some growing up to do on the court, but I was encouraged by his positive body language throughout the game. One would assume that D’Antoni has instilled some confidence in him (unlike Don Nelson). Definitely a player to follow.
Clear Path Foul: I had never seen David Andersen play before but I will never forget the experience of seeing him live. It was sheer comedy how this 6’11 back up center for the Raptors stepped onto the court like he was the biggest star in the building. From the moment he got off the bench, it’s as if he thought he owned everyone on the court (every time he took a shot, I pictured Rick Ross saying “I’m the biggest boss that you’ve seen thus far”). When you look at the numbers, they won’t say much:
12 points, 5-10 FGs, 2-3 3PT FGs, 5 RBS, 3 ASS.
Here’s what you need to know though: he took awful shots and his assists came as result of him swinging the ball, as opposed to creating offense for others. Andersen does not lack confidence, and I’m hoping Triano gives him some playing time during the course of the season just for the sake of my entertainment.
The Raptors provided some excitement on their way to a win courtesy of Sonny Weems and Julian Wright, but I was still left more intrigued by the Knicks. I will make sure to check out a few of their games (especially at the Garden) and see how they fare against their opponents.
The Raptors on the other hand took this game more seriously than New York and yet managed to win by a mere five points. They will not make my list of must see TV teams this year, but Montreal was still happy to see the NBA come to town. Just remember to glance back at these thoughts tomorrow night when the Knicks visit the Raptors as both teams play their first regular season game; I promise this information will all make sense..