You could tell it was going to be a different kind of night for the Knicks when it became obvious that Carmelo Anthony's absence was only the runner-up on their list of worries.
The way they look at it, though, problems are only opportunities in disguise. So despite admittedly being stunned by the sudden announcement that Amar'e Stoudemire will be out for six weeks because of knee surgery, they were not surprised about beating the Jazz, 113-84, at the Garden.
"You play basketball," Tyson Chandler said. "This is the New York Knicks. It ain't about Melo, it's not about Amar'e, it's not about Tyson Chandler. It's a team. It's not tennis or golf or anything else. It's somebody's opportunity to step up. The way they assembled the team this summer, with the depth -- we didn't have that last season. This year there's an opportunity for guys to come in."
Saturday night, for instance, was an opportunity for Steve Novak to show off his three-point skill and his ability to shoot off the dribble. He had 20 points, including a batch of threes (he was 5-for-10) that turned the game into a blowout.
It was another big night for the newest Knick, Kenyon Martin, who had earned increased playing time with his solid play against the Thunder on Thursday. He was solid again, making a few thunderous dunks on his way to 10 points to go along with six rebounds in 21 minutes. "I took advantage of the opportunity," he said.
J.R. Smith scored 24 -- his third consecutive 20-point game in Anthony's absence. Raymond Felton added 15 and set a tone of good ball movement and accurate shooting. Pretty much everyone Mike Woodson put out there played a strong defensive game against an opponent that didn't look all that impressive. "I thought tonight was focused and committed," the coach said. "And I thought defense really won the game for us."
The Knicks knew it was going to be all about adjustments. They had realized that Anthony still was out on a day-to-day basis because of his sore knee, and they found out fairly close to game time that Stoudemire will miss the next six weeks because of knee surgery.
"It's hard to say. Some nights you come out after news like we got about Amar'e and can really be down," Novak said. "Or you really rally around that kind of thing. I think that's what you saw."
It all went into being adaptable. That necessity was clear in the morning when neither Anthony nor Stoudemire took part in the shootaround. Woodson said he talked with Anthony and learned that the superstar forward's knee was only "so-so."
The plan as of Saturday was just to treat it and hope that treatment and time will allow the swelling to subside. He missed his third consecutive game after having left midway through the game in Cleveland on Monday.
So for the Knicks, who are setting out on a five-game, 10-day trip that begins on the West Coast, it is a matter of going to Plan A, Plan B or Plan C. Whatever works on a given night.
"This team can still beat teams. We've done that. We've proven that," Woodson said.
". . . These guys are wearing a Knick uniform. They've got to step up and play. I've got to get them to do that."
That was no problem Saturday night.