“A crazy start,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said Tuesday, and it surely will not be the last time he needs the phrase.
Before leaving New York, the Knicks signed — their eighth roster addition in 17 days. He will provide short-term backup at point guard until Iman Shumpert, the Knicks’ prized rookie, recovers from a knee injury.
In a poetic twist, Lin’s first game with the Knicks will be in Oakland, against the Golden State Warriors, who gave Lin his first N.B.A. contract after he went undrafted in June 2010. The Knicks claimed Lin, Harvard’s first N.B.A. player in more than 50 years, off waivers after he was cut by the Warriors and the this month.
Lin, who lives in the Bay Area, is expected at Wednesday’s shootaround. He will serve as an insurance policy, backing up Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby at point guard.
“If somebody wakes up with a cold, he’s playing a lot,” D’Antoni said. “If not, we’ll see.”
The Knicks might need every healthy body to get through a strenuous first week, having already lost two rotation players — Shumpert and Jared Jeffries — to injury.
After playing the Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers on consecutive nights, the Knicks will get one day off, then close the trip against the dynamic young Sacramento Kings on Dec. 31.
The Knicks’ callow backcourt will be tested at every stop: by the Warriors’ Monta Ellis, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and the Kings’ Tyreke Evans, all of them highly skilled and athletic. The Knicks will get a slight break against the Warriors, as Stephen Curry (ankle) is expected to miss the game.
Guard play will be a continuing concern for the Knicks, who are starting two relative neophytes, Douglas and Landry Fields, with little help off the bench. They gave up a combined 51 points to Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen in Sunday’s season-opening victory over the Boston Celtics.
“You can go through the whole league; it’s going to be that way,” D’Antoni said of defending elite guards. “We’ll be O.K. A lot of times we just didn’t get back. Those are things that are team defense and not just individual, so we just got to improve that.”
With Tyson Chandler now patrolling the paint and the assistant coach Mike Woodson preaching defense, the Knicks hope for vast improvement this season. But it is early yet, with training camp having opened just 19 days ago.
“We can’t allow what happened Sunday to happen again,” Chandler said, pointing to Rondo’s frequent layups, especially in transition. “One of the things that we wanted to concentrate on is getting two defenders back. If we get back and we build a wall, you take that away.”
Chandler said the burden could not fall solely on the Knicks’ guards, but would require a coordinated effort by the entire lineup, especially the big men, Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. In a league stocked with elite perimeter scorers, no one stops anyone one on one.
“It’s our job to build a wall,” Chandler said, “and it’s me and Amar’e’s job to get back after they build that wall and protect the paint.”
The Warriors wanted Chandler for that same purpose and pursued him aggressively when free agency opened. Chandler said the Warriors were his first choice until the Knicks made a surprising last-minute pitch. The decision was made all the more difficult because Mark Jackson, the Warriors’ rookie coach, is a neighbor and friend of Chandler’s. Both live in the Los Angeles area in the off-season, about a mile apart.
“It was tough,” Chandler said,” but I spoke to him as a man and let him know, this is a situation I couldn’t pass up on.”
The Knicks’ rotation will have a few new wrinkles. Bibby will join the mix after missing the opener because of a sore back. The rookie Josh Harrellson will be the first big man off the bench, in place of Jeffries. After that, the frontcourt gets thin. The next in line would be Jerome Jordan, whom D’Antoni refers to as a project, and Steve Novak, who is purely a 3-point specialist.
Because of the truncated 66-game schedule, this will be the Knicks’ only trip to the West Coast and their only trip past the Central time zone. They will not visit Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Denver or the Clippers this season. After this trip, the farthest west they will travel will be San Antonio.