The Knicks have a new coach and a new system in place with Derek Fisher taking over for Mike Woodson this year to help implement the somewhat anachronistic triangle offense — supplanting Woody’s more traditional sets last year. The inchoate nature of triangle for the team was on full display during New York’s 106-86 loss to Boston in their preseason opener last night, and J.R. Smith tells the New York Post‘s Fred Kerber, “It’s going to take some time.”
The triangle offense, as Walt said during last night’s telecast, is like jazz: there’s a structure in place, but it’s primarily an improvisational offense within that lax format. Obviously there’s a lot of nuance to jazz music, and the triangle offense is the same way.
“It’s going to take a few months. Over the course of the year understanding where everybody is going to be,” Smith told the Post about getting comfortable in new offensive system. “It’s going to take a while.”
The problem for Knicks fans stems from how soon the regular season begins. With less than three weeks before an opening night tip in Cleveland, getting the kinks out of the offense is everyone’s primary job. The biggest obstacle to overcome is the flow, as J.R. mentions:
“We went out there and started thinking too much instead of just playing,” said Smith. “We have to trust our instincts a little more and just play. We all know how to get into our offense and just play the right way. It’s just a matter of … if they take something away, don’t get too anxious or too nervous and turn the ball over.
“And don’t let our offense dictate our defense. We got turnovers, put our head down and they kept running the ball down our backs.”
Fisher was more optimistic, telling Kerber, “Every night, regardless of the score, it’s about finding ways to get better.”
They can’t get much worse than the 20-point drubbing they took at the hands of the Celtics, but New York — like Boston, minus Rajon Rondo — was missing a key ingredient with a hamstring injury keeping Iman Shumpert out and a hip inflammation bothering Tim Hardaway Jr. who made a go of it, and led the team with 18 points and a plus-6 rating while he was on the court (one of only two Knicks players — the other being Amar’e Stoudemire — featuring a positive plus/minus).
According to Fisher, Smith started in Shumpert’s stead because his work in practice more so injury.
“J.R. has been consistent in practice,” said Fisher. “His work ethic has been great. He’s picking up the system as well as you can possibly expect of a guy in the first week or so.
“So we felt it was right to go this way. We spoke to [the team] about the fact that things can change. Don’t take this as a final way we’re going to go about our starting lineup, but I think J.R. deserved this.”
While J.R. might “feel great about” the triangle, the rest of the team needs to do some quick learning. If they’re not making cuts and whipping passes around from muscle memory before the start of the season, the discombobulated team we saw last night might become the norm. That’s not what brought Carmelo Anthony back, and it’s certainly not something owner James Dolan — who has been surprisingly hands off so far — will stand with Phil Jackson taking home $12 million a year as president of basketball operations.
They didn’t look like a playoff team last night, but it’s still just the first game of the preseason. Fisher is right that players and fans have to be patient, but if the rest of the preseason goes like Tuesday night, expect New York’s cutthroat media to smell blood in the water.
Will the Knicks make the playoffs this year?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.