“It should be an exciting year,” Coach said. “We’re looking forward to it. I know the players are looking forward to playing. It should be great.”
D’Antoni said the Knicks would probably use the same starting lineup they did in the two-game preseason on Sunday when they face the , who swept the Knicks out of the opening round of the playoffs last season in four games. They may, however, be without the backup point guard Mike Bibby.
Bibby, a 13-year veteran who signed with the Knicks on Dec. 11, injured his back when he collided with the Nets’ Stephen Graham in the teams’ preseason game Wednesday. Bibby sat out practice Friday, but he participated on a limited basis Saturday. He will probably be a game-time decision.
Either way, the Knicks will probably maintain the starting lineup that features Tyson Chandler at center, Amar’e Stoudemire at power forward, Carmelo Anthony at small forward, Landry Fields at shooting guard and Toney Douglas at point guard.
The lockout-abbreviated training camp has added to the difficulty in preparing for the season. D’Antoni has simplified the offense and says he plans to add layers of complexity as the season progresses. On Saturday, he put the Knicks through what appeared to be a fairly thorough practice, not sparing a moment even though it was Christmas Eve.
“Everybody’s antsy,” D’Antoni said. “I think every team is the same way. You hope they respond the right way; you worry about them physically and mentally, the way a team’s put together. A little more angst on our part, but we’re confident we can play well.”
After Sunday’s opener against the Celtics, the Knicks will , returning to the Garden to host the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 2.
The Knicks have seemed to try to temper the early expectations by reiterating that a season is a marathon, not a sprint. But coaches and players acknowledge that they will have an opportunity to make an opening statement with a strong performance.
“The atmosphere is going to be just like, if not better than, a playoff game tomorrow,” Stoudemire said. “It’s Christmas Day. It’s the first game. Prime-time game. It’s going to be incredible.”