Westchester Wire: The Start Of The Knicks’ Season

Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Chasson Randle (4) drives to the net between Brooklyn Nets forward Chris McCullough (1) and Brooklyn Nets forward Justin Hamilton (41) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Chasson Randle (4) drives to the net between Brooklyn Nets forward Chris McCullough (1) and Brooklyn Nets forward Justin Hamilton (41) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Westchester Knicks are only two weeks into the season and the team has already jumped off to a great start at 4-1 through five games.

The Westchester Knicks started off the season on the road in Delaware against the 87ers. Both teams struggled off the bat on defense, as the 87ers mustered 58 points and the Knicks totaled 52 points in the first half. It didn’t get better in the second half, as Delaware had 63 points in the second half, including 35 in the third quarter.

One concern heading into the season was rim protection. Jordan Bachynski and Darion Atkins, who combined for 3.6 blocks per game last season, are no longer on the team.

The lack of interior defense was evident in their first game. The Sevens scored 52 of their 121 points in the paint.

Westchester had similar issues when they face the Iowa Energy. The Energy have many long, big athletes that gave the Knicks a challenge. Iowa fully took advantage of the Knicks lack of rim protection by scoring 62 points in the paint.

“We’re not that real big across that front line and Iowa poses a lot of different problems the way they play and with their size,” Westchester head coach Mike Miller said. “They didn’t really play a big guy per se, but 2 through 4 in the positions there and even at the 5, they’re all 6’7″ strong bodied guys that all can shoot and we saw them tonight how aggressive they can be as well.”

The Knicks do have several versatile forwards that can pick up rebounds at a high rate and help push the pace, but the team needs a shot-blocker. While the Knicks brought in Anthony Kent via a team tryout, he’s missed four of five games due to injury.

“We got Anthony Kent coming back. We need size. We need [a] big five. We need size; somebody who can block shots, so I’m glad Anthony Kent is coming back,” Damien Inglis said. “He’s probably going to help us get the number down.”

After five games, Westchester ranks 21st in the D-League in blocks per game (3.0).

Marshall Plumlee could spend a few games here and there in Westchester throughout the season. Unless the Knicks can strike a trade or pick up a player in the player pool, it could be an issue for the season.

In the two games he played, Plumlee showed he could be an adequate defender and rebounder. In his last game with the team, Plumlee totaled eight rebounds and two blocks, which doesn’t include the 22 points he dropped in the process.

This year’s team looks different compared to last year’s team in terms of offensive output. The 2016-17 Knicks have a mix of players who can get to the basket, who can shoot threes, and who can help push the pace.

After not making the New York Knicks’ roster due to a late injury, Chasson Randle has been scoring at will. He’s had a few games where he was in foul trouble, but that hasn’t stopped the former Stanford guard from averaging 20.8 points per game to start the season.

While he has been known to be an effective 3-point shooter, Randle has had a few solid shooting games and a few sluggish games from deep.

One of the benefits of that position is that Jordon Crawford can come in and spark the second unit. If Randle is in foul trouble, the 5’6″ guard can jump in and keep the offense going.

Not only does Crawford have the quickness to get it done on the defensive end, but he can use the same hustle to be an effective offensive player. The Bowling Green product stepped up big against the Canton Charge when he was able to produce 15 points on 6-11 from the field and 3-4 from downtown off the bench.

Crawford’s play was crucial against the Charge.

In the young season, the Knicks have seen three players assigned to the team. The big club assigned Marshall Plumlee and Ron Baker to the dubKnicks and the Milwaukee Bucks assigned Rashad Vaughn via the flex assignment rule.

All three players contributed to the team each night they were in town. Plumlee had a great start in the Knicks’ match-up against the Greensboro Swarm on Nov. 19. His teammates found him in the right situation on may occasions and the 7’0″ center capitalized on those with several putback dunks.

In his lone game in Westchester, Ron Baker was able to mirror the rest of the Knicks’ shooters against the Swarm. Not only were most of the Knicks connecting on their shots, but Baker was able to go 4-of-8 from beyond the arc to go along with the team’s 43.3 percent (13-30) shooting from three-point range that night.

In one instance, Plumlee drew the defense in then dished it out to Inglis. Inglis, who had a good shot, passed it to Baker for a uncontested three-point shot.

Three days later, Vaughn was on the team. Even though the Bucks forward spent one game with the team, his play jolted the bench. Vaughn was able to knock down his first two shots of the game. He finished the game with 15 points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.

Westchester head coach Mike Miller believes the assignment players put the team in a good position overall.

“In this league, it helps a lot when you can get assignment players that can give you a little boost,” Miller said. “When you get the players, they all bring something different, so when Marshall [Plumlee] comes he brings what he does at a high level and Rashad Vaughn was really good in the first half and helped us build a lead and put us in a good position.”

Even though the Westchester Knicks have started off the season with a 4-1 record, the team has struggled in the final 12 minutes of the game on multiple occasions. The benefit is the Knicks usually build a solid lead off good runs early on in the game, which helps them hold onto a lead in the final stretch.

In the second game of the season, the Knicks had a nine-point lead after three-quarters of play. As the game got close to the end, the Swarm mounted a comeback and were within two points in the final minute. In that game, the Knicks were able to sneak out with a win.

The benefit in that game was the Knicks scored a franchise-record 41 points in the first quarter, which came in hand down the stretch.

The dubKnicks ran into a similar situation against the Iowa Energy. The Knicks had a 57-36 at halftime. The Swarm’s offense picked up as the game went on, as Greensboro totaled 45 points in the final 12 minutes and were within five points in the final seconds of the game.

Westchester forward Damien Inglis believes the team needs to trust each other on the defensive end.

“We’ve been together for 2-3 weeks now and we still need to trust each other, so it’s going to take a little while, but we need to do that; to trust each other on the defensive end,” Inglis said.

Must Read: Damien Inglis: A Journey From France To New York

After coming up short in the 2016 NBA D-League playoffs, the Westchester Knicks have come out of the gate with a bang. The Knicks are 4-1—one of four teams to have a record of 4-1 of better. They’ll face the Santa Cruz Warriors on Nov. 30. The eight-day rest should help the dubKnicks heading into their matinee game, as Westchester is coming off three games in four nights.