For NBA fans, it was like Christmas Day, with the gift being the commencement of the 2016-17 regular season.
But for the New York Knicks, it was yet another loss. They dropped to 49-116 since the beginning of Phil Jackson’s full season as team president after a 117-88 shellacking at the hands of the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Thank God it’s the first game,” new Knick Derrick Rose said following the drubbing. “We have a lot of room to improve.”
There’s obviously no reason to panic with 81 games left in the season (the Knicks are hoping more games await on the postseason slate). Plus, this truly was a night all about the Cavaliers, who last year became the first team in NBA history to battle back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit to secure a championship. They literally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, ending a lengthy professional sports championship drought in Cleveland.
With the weight of the world finally off their shoulders, the Cavaliers basked in their moment of glory on Tuesday night. LeBron James delivered his promise to The Land, the rings were distributed and the banner was finally raised.
The Knicks just happened to be there. And it just so happened that Carmelo Anthony had to watch (or listen since he was in the locker room) his former teammates, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, experience such euphoria, one he’s not familiar with.
It’s going to take some time for this to come together for the Knicks — if it does at all. This process requires patience thanks to all the roster turnover during the offseason, and the additions of Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings (plus the hiring of a new head coach in Jeff Hornacek) put Melo in a position where he has to embrace the leadership role both on and off the court.
The final stat line isn’t indicative of it with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting, but he had it going early and appeared to be in the same type of rhythm from the Olympics. But eventually, the disparity in the talent between both teams began to manifest itself, and the Cavaliers proved why they’re the defending champs. They were led by James, who tallied his first opening night triple-double.
During times in the past where the offense was stymied, we’ve seen Melo resort to playing selfishly. He’s a natural-born scorer who knows he can put the ball in the basket against anybody. But now more than ever, it’s important for him to realize he needs to trust his teammates.
Rose had both good spurts and bad (17 points on 7-of-17 shooting), with some impressive athletic drives mixed in with poor turnovers and shot selection. That kind of rust was to be expected given Rose’s abbreviated preseason, and the hope is he can find a consistent groove soon. Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis continues to prove why he’ll be a force for years to come, scoring 16 points and knocking down three treys. These guys needs to present themselves as consistent threats on the offensive end to allow Melo to operate more effectively.
Though the roster construction may leave you scratching your head at times, the team unequivocally is much improved. But Tuesday, you chalk this loss up as an ugly game after a rocky preseason against the defending champs.
The Knicks are clearly a work in progress, but things should get better from here.