Not only did Chris Paul leave, but four of their five opening day starters are out with injuries. Without Eric Gordon, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor, it is difficult to see the Hornets not getting blown out of this game.
While they did win against Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Bucks did not have Andrew Bogut. That gave the rebounding edge to the Hornets with Chris Kaman and Gustavo Ayon manning the front line. They should not be a problem for the Knicks, as long as Tyson Chandler does not suddenly become unavailable. Here are some things to look for to see how this Knicks team is progressing:
Amar'e's Explosiveness and the Pick-and-Roll
Since Amar'e Stoudemire's return to the Knicks, he has looked a lot more like Glen Davis in the paint than his old self. Amar'e did gain some muscle weight, which could explain some of his lost explosion. Also, his time away from the court certainly kept him out of the weight room. Look for Amar'e to continue to improve as he works to get his legs back.
While Stoudemire's bread and butter is the pick-and-roll, he did not display the same chemistry with Jeremy Lin that Tyson Chandler did almost immediately. That is more a testament to how quickly the chemistry between Lin and Chandler developed.
In a game, against a team like the Hornets, there will probably be stretches where Lin runs the pick-and-roll only with Stoudemire. With limited practice time during this lockout condensed season, if the Knicks put it away early, do not be surprised to see the Knicks treat the game like a practice and work on chemistry issues. Also, being able to practice on Thursday should only help Lin and Stoudemire gain a mutual understanding of what to do on the pick-and-roll.
Jeremy Lin's Turnovers
While Jeremy Lin played some excellent basketball on the offensive end, he does have an issue with turnovers. Now I have no problems with turnovers that come off of aggressive play, to an extent. Obviously, against a team that struggles mightily in the half court and excels in transition, you want to tone down the riskier passes to prevent turnovers. I take issue with Lin's turnovers that are a byproduct of poor decision making and sloppy play.
You see it come in bunches with Lin, where he will turn the ball over on back-to-back possessions or have three turnovers in four possessions. Those are things that can be eliminated easily. I am not asking him to be Chris Paul and run the offense perfectly. However, if he eliminates those turnovers, he becomes a point guard who has a 1.6 AST/TO ratio to a point guard that has a less than 3 AST/TO ratio.
Landry Fields Running the Pick-and-Roll
One of the interesting developments of the past two games has been the Knicks using Landry Fields to initiate the pick-and-roll. He has had quite a bit of success doing it. He has shown an ability to hit the rolling man and to get into the paint.
The best aspect of his pick-and-roll game is his patience in the paint. Most of the two guards that he is matched up with are smaller than him. So, even when his initial drive is blocked, he does not force a shot. He comes to stop and finishes over, or he finds a way to finish around the defender. He also has shown some ability to find a Knick's big man after being stopped in the paint. With Fields being able to run the pick-and-roll, it adds another element to the Knicks' offense that it did not have earlier in the season.
You have got to feel bad for the Hornets as what looked like quite the trade package for Chris Paul has turned out to be fool's gold. The unprotected Minnesota pick will end up being a pick at the back end of the lottery. Al-Farouq Aminu is a project player who has not showed very much growth this season. Chris Kaman's only value to the Hornets is in a trade. Most importantly, unless they trade Eric Gordon, it is almost a certainty that he takes the earliest flight to Indiana after the season to sign with the Pacers. Now they get to play a revitalized Knicks' team that seems primed to run them out of the gym. Poor Hornets. But you know what? It could be worse. How? It could be raining [thunder].