The Knicks, who play their first preseason game Thursday night against the Washington Wizards, had to make the rare schedule arrangements because Madison Square Garden underwent the second phase of its extensive renovations during the off-season. The team did not have to worry about construction last year because the lockout cut most of the league’s preseason games.
While Coach Mike Woodson doesn’t like the situation, he understands his team will have to get ready for the season no matter what. Woodson said he didn’t know if the Knicks would even get to practice in their home arena before their home opener Nov. 2 against the defending N.B.A. champion Miami Heat. A rotation of three crews is working around the clock at the Garden to get the renovations completed before the season.
“I’d prefer to have games in our arena,” said Woodson, who hopes Knicks fans will travel to the road games. “We have to be more open-minded about it and go out and play our games where we have to play them.”
The Knicks are playing fewer preseason games than usual because of the renovations. Most teams in the league play at least seven games. In previous years, the Knicks played the Nets, who have moved to Brooklyn, twice during the preseason. The two teams were originally scheduled to open the preseason Tuesday night at the Nassau Coliseum, but the Knicks requested that the game be rescheduled for Oct. 24.
Some players say having no preseason game in the Garden could affect the team at the beginning of the season. J. R. Smith pointed out that half the players on the roster were not with the team last season. The team doesn’t know, and hasn’t been told at this point, if any of the sightlines when shooting the ball will change with the renovations.
“It plays a huge role in guys who have never been a Knick before,” Smith said. “I think you really need to familiarize yourself with where your spots are on the floor in the preseason, and it’s totally different from practice in a game.”
Carmelo Anthony, however, isn’t worried. In fact, he said not having preseason games at the Garden will help build the anticipation for fans to come see the arena in November.
“We don’t know how it’s going to look,” Anthony said. “All we’re worried about is that the court is the same. If it is, we’ll be fine.”
Among the changes at the Garden, the new seating in the upper bowl will allow fans to sit 10 feet closer to the court. Those seats have been elevated by 17 degrees. The Garden will also have 58 more suites, and the concourse on the eighth floor will feature more concession stands and bathrooms.
Woodson doesn’t think his team will have to adjust much to the new configuration of the arena. He hopes the home crowd will put his team in a good mood after having a number of games, including the season opener against the Nets, on the road.
“If you’re doing what you’re supposed to do out there on the floor,” Woodson said, “our guys will get comfortable awfully quick.”
Marcus Camby (strained left calf injury), Chris Smith (left knee), James White (sore right hamstring) and Rasheed Wallace (conditioning) will not travel with the team to Washington. …Smith is scheduled to have left patella tendon surgery Friday. The Knicks expect him to recover in three to six months.