Immediately, the new-look Knicks’ offense offered a glimpse into what the future may hold, something rarely seen last year: A wide-open Julius Randle jump shot.
Kemba Walker drove baseline and drew multiple defenders. He fed Randle, who missed the corner 3-pointer. But the look was something Randle didn’t get much of last season, when so much was on his shoulders as the Knicks’ top scorer and playmaker.
In Tuesday’s preseason opener, newcomers Evan Fournier and Walker displayed how much they can help on the offensive end, combining for 24 points and five assists in a 125-104 victory that saw the Knicks rack up 26 assists and just three turnovers.
“Those are really highly skilled players, really have a high IQ for the game of basketball and know how to make plays and just make the game easier for everybody,” Randle said Wednesday after practice.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has said he plans to rest one of his regulars during each preseason game — center Nerlens Noel didn’t play on Tuesday — and noted that it is a priority to make sure Walker and Fournier are comfortable in their new surroundings. They certainly looked it against the Pacers, and so did the other key Knicks.
“They fit well because they’re interchangeable,” Thibodeau said. “Kemba can play with the ball, without the ball. Julius can play with it, without it. Evan can do the same. RJ [Barrett] can do the same. … The thing I like about all four of those guys [is they] are terrific downhill. So, if we get downhill and make the right rim reads, then the game becomes easy for everyone.”
Center Mitchell Robinson is making progress in his rehabilitation from foot surgery last March, but still hasn’t practiced fully. Thibodeau wouldn’t commit to Robinson playing in any of the team’s three remaining preseason games, but did say he has been medically cleared to practice with contact, although that hasn’t taken place yet.
“That would be the next step,” the Knicks’ coach said. “You can’t go from zero to 100, and there’s a buildup he has to go through to prepare him. Once he handles the appropriate step, then we’ll go to the next step.”