Lineup unset, Smith out as Knicks ready for opener
The starting lineup still isn't finalized and the bench will be weakened. Not the ideal way for the New York Knicks to start a season.
They were blistering at the beginning last year, blowing out Miami in their opener en route to a 6-0 record, a win shy of their best start ever. They had at least a share of the Atlantic Division lead every day and won it for the first time since 1994.
''Last year is over in my mind,'' Carmelo Anthony said Tuesday. ''We accomplished what we accomplished last year. This is a new season for me, for us, and we're ready to go out there and play.''
It starts Wednesday night against Milwaukee at Madison Square Garden, with Anthony perhaps back at the power forward spot and J.R. Smith not in the arena while he serves a five-game suspension for violating the NBA's anti-drug program.
Coach Mike Woodson said he wouldn't decide on his lineup until Wednesday, though hinted that he was leaning toward moving Anthony back to the position he's played most of the last 1 1/2 seasons, after previously planning to go with a conventional lineup that would have the NBA's leading scorer at his normal small forward spot.
''We've been successful here with Melo playing a lot of 4 and we haven't experimented a whole lot with him playing 3 until this exhibition season,'' Woodson said, ''and so I mean I just feel like I don't want to go away from it a lot in terms of him playing at the 4 spot.''
Woodson started newcomer Andrea Bargnani and Anthony together in the preseason, but both shot poorly. Sending Bargnani to the bench and shifting Anthony back to the big forward spot likely moves Metta World Peace into the starting lineup.
Woodson also said Amare Stoudemire would be in uniform, but wouldn't decide how he would use Stoudemire or Kenyon Martin until talking to the forwards Wednesday so they could discuss ways to keep both healthy. Woodson said it was a ''little sticky'' that his rotation was unsettled, but insisted he had plenty of options.
''I do know there was a lineup that was pretty successful last year that worked for us that I could always go back to,'' Woodson said.
But he can't call upon Smith, who averaged 18.1 points last season and won the Sixth Man of the Year award.
''I can't worry about that,'' Anthony said. ''We know J.R.'s situation, we're waiting for him to come back, do his penalty, sit his five games and come back ready. The guys that's out there in place of that got to step up. Just because J.R. is out, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have to come out and play as hard as we should.''
Anthony dismissed comments made a day earlier by TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, who said Anthony should focus on trying to recruit players to join him in New York, rather than his option to become a free agent next summer.
''I don't listen to that guy. Not at all,'' Anthony said, referring to Barkley.
''I haven't had a complaint yet in my 10, 11 years in this NBA about playing with me. I think people would love to come to play in New York, and when that time comes, we'll be working on that. I have a big black book, I have a big rolodex, so people that talk about what's going on with me in the offseason and this and that, and I should be getting people to come here, I am. I'm trying.''
The Knicks know it will be easier with another strong season and believe they will have one, even if they don't match last year's start.
''I truly want to build on what we did last year,'' Woodson said. ''I mean, last year is last year, but it was a good season for our ballclub and our fans here in New York. The ultimate goal is to win a title and it starts tomorrow night in terms of how we step on the floor and how we play.''