TNT opens its 33rd season of NBA coverage on Oct. 25 with the defending champion Cavaliers hosting a certain New York team that will sport a dramatically different, more interesting look.
But will the Knicks actually be better than they were in 2015-16?
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday to promote the upcoming season, Turner analysts Reggie Miller, Grant Hill and Kevin McHale agreed that they will be — within limits.
“According to Derrick Rose, they’re a ‘super team,’ so they should be better, correct?” Miller deadpanned, referencing a comment from over the summer.
“Look, obviously a lot of new pieces. I do actually like the pickups of Joakim (Noah) and Derrick Rose. Then you add Brandon Jennings, who I thought was a steal this offseason, and they’ve gotten better.
“And Jeff Hornacek is going to come in, and from everything I have been watching and reading, is going to run his system. Everyone was worried these new types of players were going to be forced to run the triangle (offense) and the players, Noah and Rose and Jennings, they’re not triangle-type players. They’re more free-flowers.
“You add that to the mix with Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and (Kristaps) Porzingis, I do like their first six or seven guys. They’re better. They’re going to be longer. The question is going to be health. You’re wondering if Noah as well as Rose can get to the finish line because of the health problems over the last few seasons.
“But it’s certainly an upgrade at both ends of the floor, anytime you can put Joakim Noah out there, who’s one of my favorite players to watch; he’s one of the better passing big men, and so active at the defensive end. And you still have a great scorer in Carmelo Anthony and an up-and-coming young stud in Porzingis.
“So are they better on paper? Absolutely. I just hope health-wise they can get to the finish line. If they can stay healthy for 72 games or so, with everyone they have, they have a real shot of making the playoffs in the East.”
Said Hill, “They will be better. Last year 32-50, I do anticipate a big improvement, obviously. Derrick Rose, Noah, the addition of those guys (will help), even if they’re not at the level that we’re accustomed to seeing them at. If they can go out and be productive I really believe their experience, having been in playoff games, their desire to prove themselves and prove they can be successful and they can co-exist with some of the other players on the Knicks (will help).
“As Reggie said, health is going to be vitality important. I also thought last year despite all the challenges during the season and obviously Melo shutting it down with an injury, I did think when he was healthy he was making an attempt to have more of an all-around game, that it wasn’t all about scoring necessarily. I think he was doing a better job.
“I think as he’s getting older now, he’s 32 years old, Porzingis has emerged and he’s really embraced that. Porzingis I believe will be better this year. He along with Rose and Noah I think will take a lot of the load off of Melo.
“If they can stay healthy, I think Jeff Hornacek, who has had coaching experience and done a great job and had some good years in Phoenix, will be able to implement his system and get up and down a little bit and take advantage of the three-point line and play with pace, and I think you will see improvement.
“Are they a playoff team? Are they an upper-echelon team in the Eastern Conference? I think you want to slow down before you start saying that. But I think it will be a drastic improvement from the last two years to this year.”
Said McHale, “I think that Jeff was a good hire. I think (team president) Phil (Jackson) looked at a lot of things. I think as a GM you do have a style of play that you want to have in your head and Phil had so much success with the triangle and running that. But that was his system.
“I think as a GM you have to give up some of that control and look at your coach and say, ‘OK, what are you comfortable doing?’ From everything I can hear and all the articles I’m reading it sounds like Jeff has a lot more room to get up and down and I watched them play and they’re doing a lot of things they did in Phoenix: Open floor, trailer coming down, playing to the trail man, letting him make some plays, whether that’s Carmelo Anthony or Porzingis or a multitude of their big men as the trail guy.
“And playing with an open court, corner filled, post open opposite the ball. I like what I see out of them. I think they’ll do well. Having been a GM there are times you’re not going to get the perfect team. Like I always said, ‘I want to have a team with dominant big men that we’re going to pound the board, we’re going to beat the hell out of you on the offensive glass, own the defensive glass and block shots.
“Well, those guys don’t come along. That’s how I played in Boston with Larry (Bird) and Robert (Parish) and we were very successful at it. But sometimes you have a whole different team and you have to adapt. And I think he’s doing that right now.
“I think they’ll make the playoffs, I really do. I think they’ve got to get another 10, 11, 12 wins out of that 32-win team from last year and I think it’s there for them. Does that make them a force in the East? I don’t know, but you have to start somewhere. You have to start in the playoffs and at least get some of the young kids some playoff experience.
“I know playoff experience doesn’t mean that much to Melo. Carmelo at this stage wants to make a run in the playoffs and compete for a championship. I don’t think they’re on that level, but I think they’re on the level of being a playoff team and then adding pieces and going from there.”