Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Veteran Knicks big man Taj Gibson has been impressed by Mitchell Robinson so far.
"He has a lot more to offer than what you see. He's only scratched the surface," Gibson said Friday. "He's real talented and athletic but he shows a lot more in practice. He can shoot the ball. He's a great shot-blocker. He has so much to offer. It's up to us to bring it out of him."
Robinson will likely start at center for the Knicks this year. You can argue that his progression in Year 2 -- and beyond -- is one of the Knicks' most important tasks. Robinson established himself as one of the top young shotblockers in the league this season. He plans to start shooting from the perimeter this year. If he can continue to develop on both ends of the court, the 21-year-old could give the Knicks something every NBA team covets -- a shot blocking 7-footer who can shoot threes.
We're obviously far away from that territory for Robinson, but his development this season will be something to keep an eye on.
The Knicks signed four players 6-9 or taller, so David Fizdale will have the chance to play some bigger lineups this season. There's been a league-wide trend to play smaller, but Fizdale said earlier this week that he's open to playing some of bigger lineups this year.
Bobby Portis -- one of the free agents signed by New York -- believes it can be an advantage for the club.
"You've got real versatile guys who can play multiple positions. Marcus (Morris) can play three, four; I can play four, five; Julius (Randle) can play four, five; Taj (Gibson) can play four or five. Coach, he'll have to put that together who's going to be out there but we have guys who can really score the basketball, post up and shoot the three."
Added Gibson: "I think the advantage is our group of guys … can guard multiple positions and play different positions. One thing about having Coach Fiz, he's allowing the guys to bring up the ball, dribble the ball if need be… we got a lot of guys who can rebound the ball and actually push in 3-on-1, 2-on-1 situations. Fiz has been great for expanding guys' games. He's not putting guys in categories and that's where the new style of play is, not putting guys in categories, just developing guys' games."
Given the roster construction, the Knicks' lineups will be something to monitor all season long.
More threes, please:
New York ranked 21st in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions and 28th in 3-point shooting percentage last season. You can expect the Knicks to take some more threes this season. Fizdale explains why here:
"I just feel like with additions of Wayne (Ellington), Marcus Morris, Reggie (Bullock)'s out right now, but Bobby Portis, who shot 40 percent last year (is here). Julius (Randle) is really shooting the three-ball well," he said. "I feel like we'll shoot a higher percentage. With guys that can attack and draw double teams and put pressure on the paint, that'll help manufacture some of those."
Fizdale agreed with the idea that having Dennis Smith Jr. for a full season should help create more open looks. He also thinks the Knicks should get more corner-three attempts -- something they ranked in the bottom five in the league last season.
"We would've liked to have gotten more but we weren't collapsing defenses enough. We weren't drawing enough double teams to really manufacture great shots and so we took our threes when we got them. Hopefully this year we can get more of that high-percentage three-point shot," Fizdale said.
A new challenge:
Fizdale and all other NBA coaches will be allowed to challenge a ref's call this season. The new challenge rule allows coaches to call for one instant replay of a called foul, called out-of-bounds violation, or called goaltending or basket interference violation.
"It'll be interesting to see how it plays out and how it works," Fizdale said. "I'll probably hold mine, especially if it's close games, I'll probably hold mine until late so I can have something there if I don't like the call, I can use it to help us win a game."
NBA refs have clearly defined what a gather is this season and what is -- and isn't -- legal after a player gathers the ball. They've changed the sequence they use to officiate the travel after the league's officials found that some travel calls were being missed. So there could be an increase in travels called this year, though nothing has changed about the rule itself.
The league's officials also looked at illegal contact initiated by other players and other potential infractions. Full details on new points of emphasis can be found here.