HARTFORD -- The Knicks played their second preseason game without their regular starting power forward and shooting guard and minus their backup shooting guard, another key wing player, their second-string center and their backup power forward.
Mike Woodson probably would be more concerned if the regular season were about to start. But missing all these players now could affect the chemistry when the season begins.
"You think about that," he said yesterday before the Knicks beat the Celtics, 98-95, in overtime at the XL Center (rookie Chris Copeland scored 21 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter and OT). "But as we near that first game, we're going to have a good five, six days of work that we put in without any games, which is kind of nice. Hopefully by that time, everybody will be ready to go."
This is a critical time for the Knicks to develop that on-court bond that all good teams have. This is a team, after all, that has only six players returning from last season, none of whom are point guards. And only three have played both preseason games -- Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak.
Amar'e Stoudemire missed his second preseason game because of a bruised left knee. J.R. Smith sat out with a sore left ankle. Marcus Camby remains out with a strained calf. Rasheed Wallace continues to work on his conditioning, and Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer are rehabbing from knee surgeries.
Kurt Thomas again started for Stoudemire at power forward and James White was the starting shooting guard against Boston.
The Knicks, who have four preseason games left, are downplaying Stoudemire's knee injury. But this was supposed to be the full training camp that Anthony and Stoudemire needed for them to work well together, and Stoudemire has missed several days because of his knee and an ankle injury he suffered the first week of camp.
Stoudemire participated in the walk-through before the Knicks left for Hartford but didn't travel to the game. Woodson said he will be re-evaluated Monday.
"He'll probably play the next game," Woodson said. "We just got to monitor him."
It is more important for the Knicks to be healthy for the long haul. With a veteran team, they should be able to pick up things quickly. But there is no substitute or crash course for familiarity and chemistry.
The Knicks showed signs of having it in the first two preseason games. They moved the ball, played unselfishly and played hard, which you would expect a veteran team to do.
This is an important week because after an off day Sunday, the Knicks will have four practices before playing Toronto on Friday. Stoudemire and Camby could return and Wallace could have his first full practice.
Woodson said Wallace "is working hard and starting to look good." Brewer also could increase his workload. He said he expects to be ready for the Nov. 1 opener against the Nets.
Starting Friday, the Knicks will play four preseason games in six nights and close out their preseason schedule Oct. 24 against the Nets at Nassau Coliseum. The stretch after that is when Woodson hopes to have as many bodies as possible. He said he will have scrimmages that week before the regular-season opener and hopes it will be enough to build chemistry.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers likes what the Knicks did in the offseason and thinks they'll be fine.
"I think they're good moves," Rivers said. "They've surpassed us as being the oldest team. That was a nice move. We enjoyed that, being called the new kids on the block, the young kids. But all of them can play, they all have great knowledge and I think they'll help them."
Rivers, who coached Wallace in Boston before he retired for personal reasons, expects him to help the Knicks.
"I don't think he should have left," Rivers said. "The issue wasn't whether to retire; his issue was he needed to get in better condition, even with us. He was too skilled at the time -- I don't know now, he's been out two years -- he was too skilled to retire. He's going to be Rasheed. I've got the feeling the Knicks will have a spike in technicals this year."