The New York Knicks had an eventful and successful week in Las Vegas for the 2014 NBA Summer League. Eight days ago, they received the news that star forward Carmelo Anthony would be returning to the Big Apple on a five-year deal and the team played very well, winning four of five games with new head coach Derek Fisher at the helm for the first time in his career.
The Knicks’ offense was solid, averaging 80 points per game, but they shot just 41 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from three. After winning their first three games, two by double-digits, the Knicks were hoping to make it farther in the knockout round, but were only able to win one game at that stage, falling in the quarterfinals to the Charlotte Hornets. Despite the loss, it was a good run and there were a lot of positives to take from the week.
The brightest star to shine for the Knicks was Tim Hardaway Jr. The shooting guard, who earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honors last season, continued to show his improvement in Vegas. After playing in all five games, he averaged a team-high 22.8 points per game, which is also good enough for the second highest in Vegas. He was also pretty hot from beyond the arc, shooting 38.1 percent from out there. The second-year man from Michigan also showed more skill off the dribble and from inside the arc. He is continuing to improve, something that Knicks fans expected and should be excited about.
Another guy who had a nice week while playing and starting in all five games was the newly acquired Shane Larkin. The second-year man out of the University of Miami was making his Knicks debut in Vegas after coming over in the Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton trade. The speedy point guard averaged 12.2 points per game, second highest on the team, along with 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The most impressive thing to me was his ability to take care of the ball, sporting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4. He did only shoot 30 percent from three, so that can be improved, but we saw mostly good things from a young and inexperienced floor general who could end up being the backup at that position to start the season.
Cleanthony Early also had a nice week. He was dealing with an ankle injury and missed one of the five games, but had a nice run in the four games he did play. His 11.5 points per game ranked third on the team for the week and he shot a scorching 50 percent from beyond the arc. A man who many consider as the steal of the draft, Early showed he has game. He is a hard worker and a good defender, but needs to improve with his confidence putting the ball on the floor. He rebounded well for his position, grabbing 4.8 per game and only turned the ball over once per outing as well. A solid week for Early should give him a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the offseason and training camp.
Another man who should be acknowledged for his play is Cole Aldrich. He re-signed with the Knicks at the beginning of the week and had an excellent first game, scoring nine points and grabbing 15 rebounds. However, he didn’t play again as he was dealing with a calf strain. The Knicks lack frontcourt depth, so even though he wasn’t able to play too much, it was promising to see him have at least one really good game.
After missing the playoffs last year and entering the offseason without draft picks, the New York Knicks have done a lot over the past couple of months to make themselves a better squad in a short amount of time. While the future seems bright with young talent, Anthony returning and Phil Jackson as president of the team, there is still a lot of work to do. That said, if Vegas is any indication, things are going well so far this offseason for the Knicks.