ALBANY -- After seeing it live and watching tape of Friday's 19-point preseason loss to Toronto, one thing was very clear to Knicks coach Mike Woodson -- his starters need more time playing together.
But they didn't get that time Saturday night when the Knicks lost to the Celtics, 109-98, at the Times Union Center. Because it was a back-to-back, Woodson gave Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler the night off. They will face the 76ers Monday night in Anthony's return to Syracuse.
Woodson will use Monday night, Wednesday's preseason finale and the week leading up to the Nov. 1 opener in Brooklyn to get the starters more comfortable playing together. In the Toronto loss, the offense didn't flow as well as when the second team was on the floor.
"It just tells me we haven't played together long enough," Woodson said. "I haven't had an opportunity to have them on the floor. That will come. We just got to get some work time on the floor together where they know each other and they feel good about letting the ball go and float it around.
"You notice in that second unit, the ball moves freely. It doesn't matter who shoots it. I got to get the first unit thinking like that and get more court time together and see what happens."
Stoudemire played his first game Friday after missing the first two with a bruised knee. He also sat out a handful of practices with knee and ankle injuries, so his work with the starters hasn't been as consistent.
It's imperative for Anthony and Stoudemire to find ways to co-exist successfully. This training camp and preseason was supposed to be the time they developed that elusive chemistry. "I try to play off of him," Anthony said. "I try to play opposite him. Him and Raymond [Felton] in pick-and-rolls, trying to figure it out. Right now we're not too concerned about that. Amar'e is still trying to get his legs back underneath him. We're still trying to figure everything out."
The Knicks also haven't had their projected starting five playing in the same game at all. Shooting guard Ronnie Brewer has missed all four games. He will go through contact work Sunday for the first time since his Sept. 7 knee surgery, and if he comes out of it without any pain, he could play Monday night.
But the Knicks still won't have some of the regulars in Syracuse or for Wednesday's game at Nassau Coliseum. J.R. Smith didn't make this trip with an ankle / Achilles issue and will be re-evaluated when the Knicks return. Marcus Camby (strained calf) said he won't practice until late this week and hopes to play in the opener. Rasheed Wallace also stayed back, working on his conditioning. Woodson said Wallace will be evaluated and could practice later in the week.
"As we get toward that last game on Wednesday, I should pretty much have everybody back and ready to go," Woodson said. "Then we got six or seven days to prepare for Brooklyn. That will give me enough time to get guys on the court playing."
Notes & quotes: Chris Copeland scored 34 points against the Celtics . . . Woodson said Stoudemire needs more reps on his developing post game. "He made a couple of good moves on the block [Friday] night, one when he scored," he said. "A couple of moves that he made were rush moves, not being patient enough. It will come. When you're doing something new like that, you're so anxious to make something happen, and a lot of times it's not there. We got to show him the tape individually and break his moves down so he can actually see it and know that if he's in that position, the next time he won't rush."