The Garden crowd saw some familiar faces and some new ones and got its first look at the Knicks' new triangle offense Monday night.
The Knicks hadn't played at home since their regular-season finale in April, and this game looked like so many from last season. But this preseason game had more meaning. It represented a new beginning for the Knicks and Derek Fisher, who made his Garden coaching debut.
"The Garden is a special place," Fisher said before the Knicks lost to the Raptors, 81-76. "Whether you come here as a visitor or now this being home and thinking about doing this hundreds of times per season hopefully for many years. To think about this being one of the many first steps in my career as a coach, to have this opportunity is very special."
Fisher will enjoy many firsts, and he hopes to eventually lead the Knicks to their first championship since 1973. But that's going to take much longer than it will for the Knicks to learn the triangle.
The Knicks shot 37.8 percent from the field against Toronto and were 3-for-23 from three-point range. J.R. Smith had 10 points and Carmelo Anthony, who played only 15 minutes, and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored nine each.
The Knicks aren't built to win now. Last week, Fisher said they are "a ways away" from contending. But with team president Phil Jackson's leadership, the Knicks are working on building a foundation with Anthony as the centerpiece.
Anthony, who signed a five-year, $124-million deal in July, received the loudest ovation during introductions. New point guard Jose Calderon also was cheered loudly. It was Spanish Heritage Night, but many fans probably greeted Calderon warmly because he's not Raymond Felton.
Calderon is an upgrade and a natural leader who seems to have a good grasp of the triangle. But the general feeling is it will be several more weeks or even months before the Knicks run it effectively. It's a proven system with the right personnel. The Knicks don't have that yet, but they are committed to it.
When Jackson and Fisher flew to Los Angeles to meet with Anthony in July, their chartered plane stopped in Kansas to visit with triangle guru and former Jackson assistant Tex Winter. Winter had introduced the offense to Jackson, who won a record 11 NBA titles running it. Fisher called that meeting a passing of the torch.
"It was this confluence of men that have been impacted by this offense and this system in ways that people would never have guessed, many, many years ago, decades ago," Fisher said. "Phil's idea behind it was to show honor and respect for what Tex was able to do for him in his career, his coaching career and his life.
"I think also now offering this job to me and me being the coach of this team, it was kind of a passing-of-the-torch type of feeling to the day. So it was a special day, honestly. I didn't know why he wanted me to go at first. Once we were there and we sat at this table, the three of us just talking basketball, it hit me that's why he wanted me to go."
Notes & quotes: Jackson said he is bringing in someone to provide "mindfulness training" to the Knicks. Fisher, who was exposed to it with the Lakers, called it "mental performance . . . Instead of always focusing on improving your performance in just the muscles and the bodies and the shooting, there is a very big muscle up here that also needs training sometimes. We take it seriously." . . . Andrea Bargnani (strained right hamstring) missed his second straight game . . . The Knicks will play the 76ers in Syracuse Tuesday night in Anthony's return to the Carrier Dome . . . Fisher started Calderon, Iman Shumpert, Anthony, Quincy Acy and Samuel Dalembert for the second straight game. But he said he hasn't committed to a starting five yet . . . Fisher likes Acy's "intensity and energy." He said he's started him instead of Amar'e Stoudemire at power forward to "see how Quincy could fit in" with guys who will play big minutes. Said Fisher, "Amar'e's more of a known entity in terms of when he's healthy what he can do for us."