Atlantic Division Preview: New York Knicks


Atlantic Division Preview: New York Knicks

In the third of a five-part installment reviewing the state of the Atlantic Division heading into the 2013-14 NBA season, John Finger checks out the Knicks:

New York Knicks
2012-13 record: 54-28 (first place in Atlantic Division)

Andrea Bargnani, C.J. Leslie, Metta World Peace, Jeremy Tyler, Beno Udrih, Tim Hardaway.

Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Steve Novak, Quintin Richardson, Chris Copeland, James White

Projected starting five
PG – Raymond Felton
SG – Iman Shumpert
SF – Carmelo Anthony
PF – Andrea Bargnani
C – Tyson Chandler

Fun fact
The Knicks have four players selected in the top three of the NBA draft, including two No. 1 overall picks in Bargnani and Kenyon Martin.

The Knicks might lead the league in crazy and energy coming off the bench with Metta World Peace and J.R. Smith. Newcomer Bargnani gives the Knicks a little more scoring muscle and frees up Carmelo Anthony on the perimeter. Who knows, maybe Anthony will actually pass out of some of the post-ups he creates for himself?

However, the Knicks are putting a lot of weight on the shoulders of Tyson Chandler’s to defend in the paint. Because of the Knicks’ lack of interior defense, World Peace and Smith are going to have to help with a lot of the dirty work to keep the ball away from the rim.

The Knicks have depth and can score, but defense is going to keep them from taking the Atlantic from the Nets.

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

CAMDEN, N.J. — It has been over three weeks since Ben Simmons suffered an acute Jones fracture in his right foot during the final scrimmage of training camp. The Sixers had constructed schemes around the rookie point-forward and watched unconventional lineups play out at Stockton University.

Those “can’t-wait-to-see” situations have been delayed to “wait-and-see” as Simmons recovers.

“Where do you begin?” Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. “I could talk for three days on what’s different without Ben Simmons. It’s all-over-the-place different. The core values of how you want to do different things there remain the same, but the whole landscape changed.”

This week was supposed to be the debut of a new-look system featuring a player who could influence the game with his versatility and athleticism. Brown even had experimented with pairing Simmons and Dario Saric at the two and three positions. Instead, the Sixers once again will start a regular season shorthanded by injuries.

Simmons was projected to start at power forward and also handle point responsibilities. His multitasking lessened the need for the Sixers to find a standout point guard this summer. They signed veteran Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, who is returning to the NBA for his second stint.

Bayless was expected to start, with the intention of Simmons running the floor at times. Now, neither can play. Bayless has been sidelined by a ligament injury in his left wrist. The Sixers announced on Friday that Bayless will have a non-surgical rehab and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Brown on Sunday was undecided on whether Rodriguez or second-year point guard T.J. McConnell would start at the one on opening night.

“He was going to be one of the primary ballhandlers,” Brown said of Simmons. “And with that, floor spots and spacing and how you actually set this thing up changes dramatically.”

The players also have noticed a change without Simmons in the backcourt. Joel Embiid, playing his first season after missing the past two with foot injuries, found himself struggling with his shot selection early on in the preseason. He got glimpses in camp of how Simmons could improve that.

“He’s such a big presence and he’s really important to us,” Embiid said. “He just makes plays. I’ve been rushing shots and that’s where it comes in play. Someone like him can help me get better shots because he can get me easy baskets.”

Simmons’ absence also fast-forwarded Saric’s transition in his first NBA season. The injuries to Simmons and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) have pushed Saric into the starting power forward role during the preseason. The rookie has been learning on the go in a new league.

“He has been thrown into the fire,” Brown said of Saric last week (see story).

Simmons recently went through a two-week, post-operative exam and had sutures removed. He is working on day-to-day rehab with the Sixers' staff while also spending time talking with Brown. The team is implementing a multi-faceted recovery program of education, health and shot improvement.

This includes meeting with Brown to break down his game — where it is now and where it can develop in the future. Brown wants to make sure Simmons knows the ins and outs of the system so he is best prepared to begin his rookie season once cleared to play.

“I think that part of my excitement is I get with Ben every day while we’re here and go into my office for half-an-hour and it’s like basketball-NBA 101,” Brown said.

That’s one aspect of Simmons’ injury for which Brown can prepare.

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Hours before Monday's 5 p.m. NBA deadline to finalize rosters for opening night, the Sixers signed former Temple guard Dionte Christmas.

Christmas, now 30, hasn't played in an NBA regular-season game since 2013-14, when he appeared in the only 31 contests of his career with the Suns.

He was a standout at Temple, where he averaged 15.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 130 games, leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring in three consecutive seasons.

Christmas played in the NBA Summer League six years in a row after going undrafted in 2009. He was originally signed by the Sixers in September 2009 after playing with them that summer in Orlando.

Christmas has also spent seven seasons overseas, most recently with Torku Konyaspor Basket in Turkey.

The Sixers now have 20 players on their roster. They have five cuts to make by 5 p.m and likely roster casualties include Brandon Paul, James Webb III, Cat Barber and Shawn Long.