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Knicks beat Nets in preseason opener

The New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (1) puts

The New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire (1) puts up a shot while being defended by New Jersey Nets' Brook Lopez during the first half. (Dec. 17, 2011) Credit: AP

NEWARK -- The Knicks on Saturday played their first -- and next-to-last -- exhibition game of this shortened preseason.

With only one more preseason game before the Christmas Day opener against the Celtics, the Knicks have to make quick assessments about who, what and where they are.

Could they be title contenders? Why not, coach Mike D'Antoni said before getting his first look at the new front line of Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.

"Realistically, I think we should," D'Antoni said before the Knicks beat the Nets, 92-83, at the Prudential Center. "I'm not trying to say, 'Oh, wow, look at us.' I think we have a lot of talent. We'll have some question marks going through the season, but almost every team has those question marks. Miami had them last year. Until we show that, I think our talent level is up with anybody, and that's why we should compete."

D'Antoni's original comments about the Knicks' title-worthiness came during a pair of radio interviews Friday.

"I agree with him," Chandler said after recording four points, four rebounds and three steals in 27:23 in his Knicks debut. "Your goal should be to win a championship whenever you lace them up. I understand we just came together, but I would be sitting here lying to you if I didn't say that was my goal. When you come here and you've got the talent that we have, that should be your goal."

Chandler, who anchored the defense for the NBA champion Mavericks before signing with the Knicks, played the most minutes of the Big Three. Stoudemire had 10 points and six rebounds in 25:06. Anthony scored 17 points in 22:17.

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't supposed to be in the Knicks' first game after the lockout.

"I thought the ball stuck a lot," D'Antoni said. "We weren't quite sure what we were doing a lot of times. Definitely looked like an early preseason game. So I'm not too excited about it, but it'll be OK."

Asked what he liked most about Chandler's debut, D'Antoni said: "Won a championship. That's all. I think he's really good. He just solidifies everything. The guy's a presence on and off the court. When you have somebody leading the charge on defense and talking and doing all of those type things, it makes the coaching really easy. He does that. He can play. We missed him about 10 times rolling down the middle. That'll come."

D'Antoni said he thought point guards Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby "struggled a little bit early. Better toward the end." Douglas had five points and five assists in 30:15. Bibby had five points and three assists in 15:11.

Point guard is one of the obvious weaknesses on the Knicks' roster, which is why they are thinking about picking up veteran free agent Baron Davis, who has a bad back.

"It's worth the risk of exploring it," D'Antoni said. "I'm sure [general manager Glen Grunwald] is going to do everything and the medical staff will look and see and come up with a good conclusion. He's an interesting player. I'm sure a lot of teams are doing the same thing -- evaluating in a short season whether it's worth it or not. He's a very good basketball player."

The Knicks have a lot of those. It's why during the regular season their leading scorer probably never will be Renaldo Balkman, who had 20 Saturday. Rookie Iman Shumpert had 16 points in an impressive pro debut.

Brook Lopez and Anthony Morrow had 15 points each for the Nets.

The fast-paced preseason ends Wednesday when the Knicks host the Nets at the Garden.

New York Sports