The long wait is finally over. Okay, but not really. New York Knicks Basketball action is about to begin as the Knicks (0-0) prepare to kick off 2023 tonight against the heavily revamped Boston Celtics (1-0) at Madison Square Garden pre-season.
While the Celtics and Knicks both lost to the Miami Heat in consecutive rounds of the playoffs, this new Celtics team arriving in town tonight looks the same as the Celtics who left TD Garden last May. The Celtics are much different. The Knicks still look like…the Knicks.
When the final buzzer of the NBA season sounded, Boston general manager Brad Stephens frantically pressed the red button and immediately got to work. On June 24, the Celtics acquired former Knicks first-round pick Kristaps Porzingis in a multi-party three-team trade involving the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies.
However, Stephens’ biggest, boldest and most financially extravagant move this summer came in the form of a historic $304 million contract extension with Jaylen Brown, the richest man in NBA history.Adding Porzingis to their roster and ensuring Brown is a solid presence alongside four-time NBA All-Star Jayson Tatum is the collective sentiment across the league The Celtics are good enough to compete for a championship. Brad Stephens disagrees.
Just days after the Portland Trail Blazers acquired Jrue Holiday as part of the Damian Lillard trade saga, the Celtics are working to acquire Holiday from Portland. Since Lillard’s departure, Boston has given the Trail Blazers the ability to further expand their rotation depth and build a foundation for their long-term future. Portland took Holiday and sent him back to the East in exchange for Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams and two future first-round picks.
In sharp contrast, the Knicks’ offseason has been quite uneventful. While the Celtics embark on the daunting task of assembling a roster reminiscent of “The Avengers,” the Knicks strive for excellence by assembling their own roster of superheroes, similar to “Mysterio.” of great strength.
The additions of Donte DiVincenzo and Ryan Arcidiacono further bolster the Knicks’ best attempt at rebuilding the 2015-16 NCAA champion Villanova Wildcats, pairing them with former Wildcat teammates Jalen Brunson and Josh ·Hart reunion. With no way to compile an NBA championship roster, perhaps fielding a team that once won an NCAA title was Leon Rose’s contingency plan. Regardless, when this quartet takes the hardwood together, there will be more chemistry on the court than in a NASA science lab.
Expected to debut
Thibodeau has clarified his strategy for using the starting lineup in tonight’s opener. When asked about how his starters will be used tonight, Thibs admitted they will see meaningful but limited playing time. In an interview with the media last weekend, he said: “Usually the first game you get something, and then you keep adding to it, and the last game will be closer to a normal rotation.” (New York Post)
While this means the much-anticipated point guard battle between Brunson and Holiday won’t materialize as we’d hoped, the Knicks were expected to have their primary starting lineup last season with Brunson, Quentin Gerard Remus, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson start the game and will likely be taken over early by the Knicks’ new acquisitions and emerging talent to control most of the competition.
With the veteran’s playing time limited, don’t expect to see what version of Randle we’ll get this year. Instead, focus on Jericho Sims. The coach has already earned early praise from Thibs, who said over the weekend: “Jericho really had a great training camp. He’s the guy. Coming off (shoulder) surgery, he’s working the way he did. Had a great summer. He really did a good job for us.” Thibs giving high praise so early is a great sign for Sims as a head coach giving high praise so early praise is uncommon.
Given Robinson’s vulnerability to injury and foul trouble, and Randle’s tendency to be inconsistent, it seems increasingly likely that the 24-year-old Sims will use tonight’s extended minutes to establish himself as the primary backup at center.
Speaking of young guys, what can we see from summer league standout Charlie Brown Jr.? Despite being 26 years old, Brown has only played 41 games in his NBA career, split between four different teams, and he will not be available to any team in the 2022-23 NBA season. After spending a full season last year with the Delaware Blue Jackets of the NBA G-League, the Knicks invited Brown to play in the Vegas Summer League as a member of the New York Knicks.
In four games, Brown averaged 19.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, demonstrating his extraordinary ability. Given the prevailing uncertainty about Immanuel Quickley’s long-term future with the team, the Knicks may look to expand depth at the guard position. With Grimes’ minutes expected to be limited tonight, Brown will likely replace DiVincenzo intermittently throughout the game.
The Celtics opened their preseason last night in Boston, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 114-106. Considering tonight’s game is the second leg of a back-to-back, the Knicks may find themselves lucky with the Celtics’ rotation. Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzula is expected to stick with his regular starting five: Holiday, Brown, Tatum, Porzingis and Al Horford. However, eight players, including all five starters, played between 23 and 26 minutes last night against Philadelphia, which could be a sign of what the Knicks may see tonight.
All things considered, Mazzula will most likely choose to take a more conservative approach and spread the playing time more evenly among the second unit of Peyton Pritchard, Derrick White, Sam Hauser, Oshabri Seth and Luke Cornet. Pritchard had a great performance for the team last night, scoring 26 points on 6-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Celtics fans may even get their first look at one or more of the seven players who received DNP last night. If Mazzula does the Knicks a favor and does provide a more balanced distribution of minutes to the second unit, the Knicks will win by 15 points tonight. easily.
However, if Mazzula does the opposite and lets his starters play the same or more minutes as they did last night…well, let’s hope not.
Manhattan, New York City. Madison Square Garden. Announcement time is 7:30pm Go Knickerbockers!