The Knicks are in town with their new brand of Mike D'Antoni fast-breaking basketball, but more importantly for Philly, the 76ers are in the Wachovia Center for the first time this season. Knicks vs. Sixers, tonight, 7. If you're going, watch out for Phillies' (you know how they're playing in the NLCS?) traffic.
It's the second preseason game for each team. Knicks lost at Toronto, 113-111, on Wednesday. On the same night, the Sixers beat Boston, 98-92.
The Knicks are a team in transition -- literally and figuratively. D'Antoni, formerly of the run-and-gun Suns, is instituting that offensive philosophy in NYC. Also, Stephon Marbury appears to have taken a backseat to free-agent pickup Chris Duhon. With the Sixers also looking to play pressure, aggressive defense and push the basketball, this should be a free-wheelin' type of game.
Oh, before I forget: We'll be chatting today at 3 p.m. I've got your link, as always. Click here: Sixers Chat.
The Sixers had shootaround this morning from 10 to 11, before which they met as a team and watched film. Head coach Maurice Cheeks said to expect the same starting lineup -- Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Sam Dalembert. Cheeks said not everyone will play, and, specifically, he told me yesterday that Donyell Marshall might not play again. Marshall was a DNP against the Celtics.
Kareem Rush is back. He said this morning that his ankle is sore, but not a hinderance. He is in the photo ... again. That's him on the far hoop shooting after shootaround. He stayed 15 minutes later than everyone. From each spot, he had to make seven shots in a row from 12 feet, 18 feet, and the 3-point line. If that makes sense. My best guess is he shot an extra 300 shots.
He said after watching Wednesday's game from the bench that he knows his role is to find open spots on the floor and hit shots. He said he "assumes every shot is going in," which, I guess, is the confidence you develop when your release is as smooth as ... his is (couldn't think of an appropriate metaphor).
Three things to watch tonight:
1.) The first five minutes. Against the Celtics, the Sixers were downright bad in the opening. They looked sluggish, the offense was stagnant, and the Celtics easily found open shots. Cheeks said he was happy with the way this group started the third quarter, but not the game. Look for a focus on defending -- even though it will be difficult with the up-and-down pace the Knicks want to employ.
2.) Kareem Rush. When will he check into the game? On Wednesday, Willie Green was first off the bench, Lou Williams second. I would look for Rush as the fourth guy off the bench, perhaps after these two guys and either Reggie Evans for Brand or Theo Ratliff for Dalembert. When Rush is out there, watch how he spaces the court and finds gaps when the ball goes inside. If he is going to earn minutes, he has to sneak into these spaces and then make the shot.
3.) Elton Brand. How much will the Sixers get him the ball? The Knicks don't have Kevin Garnett, so you should see the Knicks' help defenders pull toward Brand when he gets the ball. Brand had 11 points on Wednesday: A solid, if not strong, Sixers' debut. How will Andre Iguodala move without the ball? Can the Sixers get him some looks off of Brand's midpost game? (I know that sounds like it should be a fourth "thing to watch," and it should, but I'm sticking to three.)
Live Chat at 3 p.m. -- don't worry, if you join, we'll be done in plenty of time for the first pitch of the Phillies' game.
Be back later ...