We will not know for some time how much better the Knicks are — or are not — compared to last season. But we already know this: They are far more interesting, perhaps nowhere more so than at point guard.
Greetings, Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings!
They made their regular-season home debuts as Knicks on Saturday night, and in Rose’s case, his home debut in a game of any sort.
Fans took note, welcoming him with a loud ovation when he was introduced, then more cheers after he played a key role in the Knicks’ 111-104 victory over the Grizzlies.
“It was all love, man; I just love the support,” he said after contributing 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, no turnovers and one hellacious crossover blow-by against Grizzlies star Mike Conley Jr. in 32 minutes.
“Before the game, I was just trying to get them into the game, something I never did here before [as a Chicago Bull], but I love what I did the first game. I was patient and I was just trying to fill out the game instead of trying to force it.”
The Knicks will take it, even if Rose and Jennings (six points and three assists in 16 minutes) are not under contract beyond this season. For now, let’s just enjoy the fact that they are here, and that they are not Jose Calderon.
Rose missed the Knicks’ preseason games at Madison Square Garden while in California attending a civil trial in which he was accused of sexual assault. He was deemed not liable.
Now here he was, the oft-injured former NBA MVP, still seemingly spry at 28.
Will he stay healthy?
Will he learn to love the triangle offense?
Will he regularly be able to make fans gasp the way he did on several occasions against Memphis?
We shall see. One day at a time.
“Man, I’m happy I got it out of the way,” he said of his first home game. “The crowd was great, energetic, they were in it from the jump.”
Rose’s take on Game 2 was more cheerful than after Game 1, a loss in Cleveland on Tuesday in which he had 17 points and one assist.
He then ignited a mini-brushfire when he said he would prefer to run pick-and-roll plays every time down the floor rather than to employ team president Phil Jackson’s favored triangle.
The hopeful spin from coach Jeff Hornacek was that Rose just needed time to adjust. Rose mostly agreed.
“Even though I was working out when I was in L.A., it’s a team sport,” he said. “So me being gone and them having to play with Brandon and then me coming back and having to get used to the way I play, that is why early on I was trying to get a feel for the game and try not to force anything.”
The Knicks led by as many as 18 in the first half, highlighted by a vintage coast-to-coast drive and layup by Rose in the second quarter. The bad news: He shot 1-for-5 in the half.
But Rose had more impact in the second half, starting with the Knicks’ first score, off another dynamic drive to the hoop.
The Grizzlies were within 87-85 in the fourth. Rose was resting at the time. He returned with 8:36 left and the Knicks promptly scored 12 points in a row, four on a pretty floater by Rose and another bucket off deft dribbling through traffic.
“They were just telling me to attack,” he said of the pivotal surge, then explained in happy detail the joy of driving a lane that has been left open because of shooting threats on the perimeter.
“Pick your poison,” he said.
The Knicks are 1-1.
Hey, it’s a start. Interesting.