By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Celtics | Dunkin Donuts Center
When: Wednesday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: After weeks of battling each other over the summer and throughout training camp, the Knicks are itching to face a real opponent. They return eight of the top 10 members of last year's team in terms of minutes played, giving the sense that there is room for growth from continuity -- a process that starts in earnest tonight. It's also our first chance to see new additions Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih and first round draft choice Tim Hardaway Jr., as well as a slew of intriguing camp invitees, in real game action.
Boston: The Knicks' opponent will look nothing like the group that took them to six games in last year's first round playoff matchup. Gone are most of the names we've come to associate with the Boston rivalry, including Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Doc Rivers. The Celtics decided it was time to tear down and rebuild, bringing in new head coach Brad Stevens from Butler University to guide a young team that will also be without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from the knee injury he suffered last season.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks broke NBA records for most three-pointers attempted (2371) and made (871) last season. How the three-ball factors into the offense is one of the biggest questions entering this season.
Matchup to Watch
Andrea Bargnani vs. Kelly Olynyk
Whether he starts or not, expect the Knicks to give their marquee offseason acquisition every opportunity to acclimate to his new situation throughout the preseason. His ability to mesh with the offense and stretch the floor will be crucial to the team's big-picture hopes this year, but so will his grasp of Mike Woodson's defensive concepts. If his standout performance during the Orlando Summer League is any indication, Olynyk, the first round pick out of Gonzaga, figures to be one of the few bright spots for the Celts this season.
What to Look For
According to Woodson, "Nobody's going to play big minutes. We'll experiment with different lineups and give these young guys an opportunity to get their feet wet." So there's that. Preseason is always an exciting opportunity to see the guys we've never seen play in the NBA before, which in this case means Hardaway -- who has impressed in camp with his mature game and silky smooth shooting stroke -- C.J. Leslie, and perhaps Summer League stud Toure' Murry, who could be battling for one of the last available roster spots. Most of the vets will be limited to some degree, but seeing how they execute in that time will be worth watching, especially against a team that isn't expected to be very good.