Knicks guard Trey Burke (23) shoots against Wizards forward Jason Smith on Oct. 1, 2018, at Capital One Arena in Washington.

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Schmeelk: Knicks Fans Get Glimpse Of Fizdale's Style, And Other Takeaways From Preseason Opener

John Schmeelk
October 02, 2018 - 9:42 am
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The Knicks played their first exhibition game of the season Monday night, visiting the Washington Wizards. Given it is the first preseason game, new coach David Fizdale is probably still feeling out his team, so it’s important not to take too much out of his lineups or personnel combinations. Here’s what did seem important enough to note in the Knicks' 124-121 win:

• Fizdale’s first starting lineup featured Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kevin Knox, Lance Thomas and Enes Kanter. It is consistent with Fizdale’s prior statement that he would prefer to start a bigger small forward, which both Knox and Thomas would qualify as.

• At least in the first preseason game, the Knicks' offense featured an increased pace of play, fairly rapid ball movement, a lot of pick-and-rolls and more 3-point attempts. Kanter got a few touches in the post, but otherwise, it was a pace-and-space type of attack. The team played with good energy.

• Fizdale might preach positionless basketball, but there seemed to be pretty defined point-guard and shooting-guard roles to me on most halfcourt possessions. When Burke or Emmanuel Mudiay was on the floor, he really controlled the basketball on the majority of possessions.

MORE: Schmeelk: Knicks Media Day Recap

• Frank Ntilikina was given very few opportunities to be the true point guard when he was on the floor. He played mostly off-guard, hitting 2 of 5 shots from the field and scoring five points in 15 minutes. When he was on the ball, it looked like he had an improved handle and is learning how to use his length and body to navigate into the lane without having to blow by people with his quickness.

• Burke started at point guard and hit 2 of 6 from the field and made three free throws for seven points in 14 minutes. He is the early favorite to start opening night despite the fact he is only on a one-year contract. Mudiay was the first point guard off the bench and struggled to make just one of his shots from the field. He also had five assists and two turnovers. How Fizdale ends up using Mudiay will be a good guide as to what kind of coach he is going to be.

• Knox’s numbers were modest, but he looked very comfortable in the offense. The Knicks' first-round draft pick this year finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 from 3-point range and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. In 26 minutes, he grabbed 10 rebounds, had two steals and dished out three assists. He is going to be a good player in this league. It’s just a matter of how long it is going to take him to get there.

• Rookie center Mitchell Robinson is still very raw and has so much to learn, but even in the beginning stages of his development, he is still a useful NBA player because of the things he is very good at. He is athletic enough to defend and has the instincts to block shots and draw charges. On offense, he has a good sense of timing on his rolls to the basket and can finish dunking the basketball with the best of them. But he missed all four of his free throws.

• Guard Allonzo Trier can score and has some shake to his game, but the ball tends to stop when it gets to him. I also wonder whether or not he’ll be able to create shots for himself like that when going against starting caliber NBA defenders.

• Mario Hezonja should be better than he is. He can shoot, handle, move and pass like a guard, but he has the size and strength to play power forward. He just seems a little reckless with the ball sometimes. If he can figure out how to play the game correctly from the mental standpoint all the time and make good decisions, he can be a starting-caliber player in the league.

• We saw Noah Vonleh’s strength, hustle and athleticism, but we also saw the lack of offensive creation that has plagued him throughout his career.

Some veteran notes: Hardaway started his preseason how he played most of last season. He took a lot of long-distance shots, some contested, and hit just 1 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. ... Kanter still can’t defend, but his footwork, scoring and rebounding around the hoop is still very strong.  ... Courtney Lee did not play in the game.

You can follow John on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports at @Schmeelk.