Practice? Are we talking about practice? Yeah, that's exactly what we're talking about. At the Knicks' facility in Greenburgh, NY, practice is the name of the game. In fact, most of the members of the Knicks roster have shown up early to practice together and prepare for next season. However, it's newcomer Andrea Bargnani and oft injured Amare Stoudemire that are looking to get the most out of these practices.
What exactly are they looking to get out of these informal practices? After all, they're basically scrimmages right? Well Amare Stoudemire will be looking for rehab treatments. When asking what he'll get out of these practices the answer is the practices themselves. As in, he'll be sitting out these pre-training camp practices in hopes of saving his knees for the regular season.
It's unclear if the Knicks' coaching staff will choose to start Stoudemire or bring him off of the bench but what is clear is they plan to baby his knees this off-season and into the season where he'll be on a strict minutes limit in games.
Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork reports Knicks' point guard Raymond Felton believes the cautious plan is the prudent one. He knows the Knicks are a better team with a healthy Stoudemire, even in reduced minutes.
To Felton, Stoudemire is taking a wise approach.
"We don't want to risk [injury]. Not in practice. We'd rather have them for the 82 [games] that we have coming up," Felton said at an Under Armor-sponsored event at Macy's in Manhattan.
Felton said there is no need for Stoudemire to exert himself during the team's seven-day training camp, which starts on Tuesday.
"We really don't need him to go as hard," Felton said. "We need him to be there, as far as just seeing what's going on. But as far as him going up and down banging, doing all that, we don't want to risk that."
While many fans will shake their heads when reading that Stoudemire is being held out of practices and needs a minutes limit. After all, he is one of the highest paid players on the Knicks' roster. However, there's very little doubt that the team is better with a healthy Stoudemire on the floor and if this is what it takes to get the best production out of his knees over the next two seasons the Knicks are smart to show caution.
As for Andrea Bargnani, he is participating. That's news because it's the first time he's seen any action in a while. Bargnani was forced to sit out Eurobasket. Despite his loyalty to Italy, the combination of pneumonia and finding himself on a new team for the first time in his NBA career has kept him off the court.
"He looked good," Raymond Felton said at an Under Armour event at Macy's in Manhattan. "He's been really sick though. … He's a little winded right now."
Felton said Bargnani looked strong while playing pickup basketball with his teammates.
"That guy looked great, in my opinion," Felton said. "Everything that I was hoping that he was going to do, he kind of did it the first day we played pickup. So that kind of made me excited as a point guard."
Eventually, Felton believes Bargnani can be the Knicks' "new Rasheed Wallace."
"A seven-footer that can always space the floor," Felton said. "That's a big help to our team, I think."
Marc Berman of the New York Post also caught up with Felton and talked to him about Bargnani joining the team.
Virtually all of the Knicks are in Westchester working out informally. Felton finally got a chance to play with Bargnani on Monday. Bargnani got to town a little weakened. The former Toronto big man had to withdraw from the European Championships during Italy’s training camp in August due to pneumonia.
“He was really sick,’’ Felton said. “He had pneumonia, was out about a month. He’s a little winded right now. The guy was in bed and wasn’t allowed to work out for a month. He looks great. Everything I was hoping he’s going to do, he did it the first day we played pickup. I’m excited as a point guard. He’ll be a big help to our team.’’
The truth is, there's almost no way Bargnani is in basketball shape right now. That's what makes these practices so valuable for him. His bout of pnemonia hasn't allowed Bargnani to play basketball for at least five weeks. He'll almost definitely use the scrimmages to work himself back into shape.
When it comes to Stoudemire and Bargnani you're talking about two very similar players. They are both power forwards who play little defense and make their money on the offensive side of the court. You're also talking about two injury-prone players.
In Stoudemire's case it's wise for the Knicks to take a cautious approach. After all, this isn't even the final year of his contract. If the Knicks hope to get production out of him for the next two season they need to take every precaution possible. It may mean that he has to play himself into shape in the beginning of the season but if it prevents further damage to his body keeping him out of practice is a wise move.
In Bargnani's case, he isn't any less fragile. However, he's in good health right now and was playing very well before coming down with pnemonia. Clearly he made the right choice in sitting out Eurobasket and the fact that he showed up early to scrimmage with his teammates shows he has character.
However, the Knicks need to keep an eye on him as well. He doesn't need the minutes limit Stoudemire needs but he definitely will need to be monitored throughout the season to keep him on the floor.
For now, it's good to see him participating and hear that his new teammates seem to be embracing him. Bargnani isn't he defensive presence the Knicks need but he can certainly give them more offensive fire power.
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