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Knicks' triangle offense not very comfy yet

New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher looks

New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher looks on against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of a preseason game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Knicks looked uncomfortable for most of the preseason, and Derek Fisher is very comfortable with that.

Navigating their way through the triangle offense for the first time led to some ugly possessions for the Knicks as they went 3-4. But Fisher expected that, and the first-time coach expressed it to his players after their preseason ended Friday night with an 83-80 loss to Toronto.

"If you're comfortable, you're probably not doing something the right way," Fisher said. "We have to learn to be uncomfortable and be able to operate outside of our comfort zone. That happened to us throughout this preseason. I think it stretched us and it made us better than maybe we would have been had we not kind of fell into some of these adverse situations. We'll be fine."

The Knicks were off yesterday and will have three days of practice to prepare for Wednesday night's regular-season opener against Derrick Rose and Chicago at the Garden. The Bulls' stingy defense is known to make the strongest offensive teams feel uncomfortable.

"I'm not worried about Chicago," Carmelo Anthony said. "I'm more worried about us as a team, where we are and the focus that we got to have to start the season off.

"The time is now. Preseason is over and it's time to lock in."

It's a tough schedule to start off. The night after Chicago, the Knicks are in Cleveland for LeBron James' first game back. Then they host Charlotte, followed by road games against Detroit, the Nets and Atlanta.

The Knicks averaged 90.3 points in the preseason, shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from three-point range. One can't put too much stock in that, though; Fisher tried numerous different lineups and combinations because of injuries and to see who works best together.

Starting point guard Jose Calderon did not play in Friday night's game in Montreal because of a calf strain and Anthony didn't play during the fourth quarter. But he was on the floor in the third when the Raptors went on a 21-3 run. The Knicks looked hapless on both ends and extremely frustrated when their shots weren't falling.

"That's more mental than physical," Fisher said. "A big part of being in this business is finding ways to make sure that you're prepared to play."

There could be moments when things don't go right and Anthony and J.R. Smith revert to their old ways, looking to score instead of moving the ball and setting up their teammates.

The mental part definitely is affecting Smith. The free-spirited shooter had a rough preseason, and he ended it by misfiring on 10 of 11 tries Friday night. Overall, he shot 33.9 percent and averaged 7.6 points.

Smith said "it's a struggle" to adjust his game to be more of a facilitator and put his teammates before his own offense -- one of the major tenets of the triangle. Smith said he is "thinking too much" and isn't sure where his shots will come from, but he said he's not alone.

"I don't think it's just me," Smith said. "I'm not going to take that burden on myself. Everybody's not getting in the right spots at the right time. That's all right."

Eventually, though, the Knicks will have to figure it out. They can't keep using "it's our first time running the triangle offense'' as an excuse. It's no longer the preseason. Starting Wednesday, their games count.

"[Fisher's] biggest thing is kind of being comfortable outside of your comfort zone," Anthony said. "Right now, this is kind of uncomfortable for everybody, a new system, a new clean plate for everybody. We'll be all right. I believe that."

Notes & quotes: Starting center Samuel Dalembert, a 13-year vet, said this was the best training camp he's ever had. He looks forward to playing in the triangle, in which passing in and out of the post and everyone being involved are staples. Dalembert, who has averaged 0.5 assists per game in his career, had 14 preseason assists. The former Maverick also is getting opportunities to score inside. "Last year, I never touched the ball in the post," he said. "The only person who can touch the ball is Dirk [Nowitzki]. It depends on which team you're on." . . . The Knicks waived Langston Galloway and Jordan Vandenberg.

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