The New York Knicks, rebuilding while they have a superstar, leaned upon Phil Jackson to plug up a lot of holes after a dismal season and if their first night was any indication, Jackson still knows how basketball players fit. He drafted Kristaps Porzingas who everyone belittled on draft night. Porzingas, the first Knicks rookie to start on opening night since Landry Fields and Timofey Mosgov, was a factor in the paint and on defense. His length was disruptive after he settled his nerves. He became more aggressive as the game wore on.
The Knicks, opening on the road against a playoff contender in Milwaukee, was faced with a challenge from the outset even though the Bucks didn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo because of a suspension. After trailing early it was the Knicks who took over the game, played good defense, executed as if they had been together a couple of seasons.
This is how Jackson’s offseason pickups performed.
Sasha Vujacic: 29 minutes, 11 points, 66% field goals
Kristaps Prozingas, 24 minutes, 16 points, 27% field goals, 9-12 free throws
Robin Lopez, 20 minutes, 8 points, 60% field goals
Derrick Williams, 21 minutes, 24 points, 47% field goals, 7-9 free throws
The Knicks defensive numbers were just as impressive. They held the Bucks to 34% shooting. They outrebounded the Bucks, forced 18 turnovers and had 19 fast break points. All this with Carmelo Anthony not shooting the ball well.
The Knicks get the Atlanta Hawks in their home opener on a second night of a back to back and the Hawks will test the Knicks three point shooting defense but Jackson built this team in his own image. They played hard, they committed to defensive principles, and they made open shots and went to the free throw line.
“They jumped out on us early. We kept our composure, got through that point, calmed down and took it from there.” Carmelo Anthony.
photo via llananba