New York Knicks: Players Who Stepped Up Against Boston Celtics

The New York Knicks completed their fourth preseason game. Here are the players who stood out during the 119-107 loss to the Boston Celtics.


Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NBA preseason has provided the New York Knicks with an invaluable opportunity to develop team chemistry. Though the absence of starting point guard Derrick Rose has hurt New York, other players have stepped up in his absence.

The Knicks continued to create reasons for optimism against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, October 15.

New York dropped what was a generally close game by a score of 119-107. Despite the result swinging in Boston’s favor, the Knicks offered fans a number of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the team.

Players with both immediate and long-term value stepped up against a division rival and Eastern Conference contender in the Celtics.

In some instances, the expected standouts continued to perform at a high enough level to justify the hype. In others, players who aren’t expected to provide as many positive contributions stepped up with a stellar showing.

The question is: who are the players who stood out against the Boston Celtics?

Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony knows just how important he is to the success and failure of the New York Knicks. He said as much during a recent interview with Al Iannazzone of Newsday.

For those who missed it, Anthony said the following about his embracing a leadership role:

Let’s just be quite frank, at the end of the day it’s going to take me being the best that I can be on the basketball court to make this successful alongside everybody doing their job and playing their role and being the best that they can be, Anthony said.

That’s exactly what Anthony has done during the 2016 preseason.

It wasn’t Anthony’s best performance, but he posted 15 points, two rebounds, and an offensive rebound in 23 minutes. Jae Crowder created a tough matchup, but Anthony still looked good as he continues to develop confidence in his shot and athleticism.

Shooting 5-of-14 may not look pretty, but Anthony played a solid game as far as scoring is concerned.

Considering this is the preseason, it’d be silly to focus on nothing more than statistics. What this game established was the fact that Anthony is committed to being aggressive as a scorer when the Knicks need him to do so.

This wasn’t Anthony’s best performance of the 2016 NBA preseason, but he flashed the critical aggressiveness that could lead New York to success.

Willy Hernangomez

The race for the role of backup center is being statistically dominated by rookie big man Willy Hernangomez. The New York Knicks landed Hernangomez at the 2015 NBA Draft and watched intently as he spent 2015-16 with Real Madrid of Spains’ Liga ACB.

Hernangomez continued what’s been a productive and intriguing jump to the NBA with a double-double against the Boston Celtics.

Hernangomez had his first big performance of the 2016 NBA preseason when he posted 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 20 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets. He flashed an even greater degree of his upside against Boston.

Hernangomez recorded 12 points, 12 rebounds, five offensive boards, and an assist in 24 tremendous minutes against the Celtics.

Hernangomez has the potential to start for the Knicks, and his familiarity with close friend Kristaps Porzingis certainly bodes well for him. Hernangomez continues to show that he’s more than just Porzingis’ friend, however, as he’s thriving individually.

It’s only the preseason, but Hernangomez’s tenacity on the boards suggests that this could be the first of many double-doubles in the NBA.

Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Justin Holiday (8) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter (28) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Holiday

Through three preseason games, it appeared as though Justin Holiday was in danger of losing his roster spot. That may seem a bit extreme, but Jeff Hornacek confirmed that the New York Knicks are willing to cut a player on a guaranteed contract.

After Ron Baker and Chasson Randle thoroughly outperformed him in the first three preseason games, Holiday stepped up against the Celtics.

Holiday finished with 13 points, five assists, four rebounds, and an offensive board in 24 minutes of action. He shot 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, flashing his full arsenal of moves and skills.

Holiday created off the bounce, shot off the catch, facilitated the offense, and displayed the value of his size and athleticism at shooting guard.

It’s entirely possible that Holiday’s first three preseason games were virtual non-factors, but they still offered reason to be concerned. This performance silenced as much of the criticism as possible, as he confirmed the belief that he could be an impact player off the bench.

Holiday will need to do more to prove that he will be an impact player off the bench, but it’s worth noting that he was a +1 during a 12-point loss.

Oct 10, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) dribbles the ball during the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings may or may not become the best player on the New York Knicks, but he’s quickly emerging as the most entertaining. His crafty handles, fearless approach to playmaking, and tantalizing skill set have put him back on the map.

Jennings still has things to work out, but the only thing that matters about his preseason play is that he’s beginning to look like himself again.

Jennings ruptured his achilles tendon in January of 2015, which makes it hard to believe he played 48 games in 2015-16. He struggled during those 48 outings, however, and has yet to prove he can consistently perform at a high level.

He certainly wasn’t flawless, but Jennings managed to finish with eight points, five assists, three rebounds, a steal, and a 3-point field goal against the Boston Celtics.

Jennings’ ability to facilitate the offense could play a defining role in the Knicks’ postseason aspirations. Derrick Rose is a capable distributor, but one could argue that Jennings is the more gifted passer.

Regardless of who’s better, it’s intriguing to see Jennings continuing to improve the confidence with which he plays.

Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas (91) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

Mindaugas Kuzminskas has been one of the most impressive players on the New York Knicks during the 2016 preseason. Though he’d yet to have a breakout performance through two appearances, Kuzminskas played consistently well.

It was against the Boston Celtics that the Knicks’ latest European sensation revealed just how good he could one day be.

Kuzminskas was a revelation in his 19 minutes of court time. He recorded 18 points, 10 rebounds, seven offensive boards, three assists, and a block on 7-of-16 shooting from the field, 3-of-7 shooting from distance, and a 1-of-1 mark from the charity stripe.

All things considered, it may have been the most intriguing individual performance by any Knicks player this preseason.

Kuzminskas spaced the floor, finished at the rim, and absolutely dominated the offensive glass. He proved comfortable handling the ball, dishing it off to his teammates, running the break, and operating in the half court.

For what it’s worth, Kuzminskas is averaging 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 3-point field goals in 12.3 minutes through three preseason games.

That’s 31.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 3.8 3-point field goals made per 36 minutes.

Joakim Noah

The New York Knicks have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of starting center Joakim Noah. The Knicks’ $48 million man missed the Knicks’ first three preseason games with a hamstring injury and hurt his ankle during the lead-up to Saturday’s outing.

It didn’t take long for Noah to make his mark, as he put forth a solid first performance in a Knicks jersey against the Boston Celtics.

Noah played 19 minutes against Boston, which was critical progress. He wasn’t exactly dominant, but merely taking the court and providing quality minutes is the type of development that his team needed to facilitate long-term growth.

In his 19 minutes of court time, Noah provided five points, five rebounds, one offensive board, one assist, and two steals on 2-of-4 shooting.

The statistics rarely matter with Noah, as his impact is felt well beyond the box score. His numbers accurately displayed his tenacity on defense, however, and also flashed his invaluable ability to facilitate from the high post.

Noah is going to be one of the Knicks’ most valuable players on both ends of the floor in 2016-17. He began to show why during his preseason debut.

Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics won 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis is the present and the future of New York Knicks basketball. The No. 4 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft earned a unanimous selection to the 2015-16 All-Rookie First Team and has looked even better during the 2016-17 preseason.

With a challenging matchup against Al Horford and the Boston Celtics, Porzingis continued to look like a future superstar.

Porzingis’ performance against the Celtics was cut short by a sore left groin. He saw 15 minutes of action, but exited the game early and never returned for precautionary purposes—a wise approach by head coach Jeff Hornacek.

When Porzingis was on the court, he continued to provide glimpses into what he’s capable of giving the Knicks on a consistent basis.

Porzingis had nine points, three rebounds, and a steal on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from distance. He threw down a dunk in transition and continued to show why his 3-point attempts are some of the most unfair shots in basketball.

If Porzingis ever puts it all together, he’ll be unlike any player the NBA has seen before.

The Unicorn is rising.

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