Home Renovation Puts Knicks on the Road

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.

Spike Lee to Stick With His Knicks

Will this man in his “Republic of Brooklyn” shirt, this filmmaker who made the borough of his childhood a living, breathing character in six movies over 26 years, now forsake his beloved and root for the Brooklyn ?

shoots a sideways glance suggesting the reporter is guilty of early morning drug use.

“I wish I had a dollar for every time people ask me that — I could finance another film,” he says. “No, no and no. Can’t do that. Can’t.

“I am orange and blue, baby,” he says in reference to the colors of the Knicks. “Orange and blue.”

Suburban nomads, the Nets will open in Downtown Brooklyn in the fall after a 46-year Off Broadway run on Long Island and in New Jersey.

Fans, united for generations behind the New York Knicks however dispiriting the ownership (James Dolan, please report to the courtesy desk), the team or the lack of victories, have an alternative. Dislike the peevish fashion in which Mr. Dolan discarded point guard Jeremy Lin? Embarrassed that Knicks management saw fit to drop confetti to celebrate that the team won a game — a single, solitary, first-round game — against the Miami Heat?

You can switch.

Or not.

Sports loyalties are splendidly irrational, and rarely surrendered. And a glowering Knicks versus Nets rivalry comes laden with subtext: There is a shift in the perceived hipness quotient from Manhattan to Brooklyn, not to mention complications of class, race, gentrification and borough identity. If you look hard enough, there’s probably a foodie subtext.

We asked Mr. Lee, 55, to ruminate on all this. He came of age within a few hundred yards of the Nets’ new arena; he helped establish a black artistic renaissance in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in the 1980s; and he remains the personification of the utterly mad Knicks fan.

Mr. Lee talked while sitting atop the outdoor stairs that rise at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, looking south at the caffeinated nuttiness of Times Square. Surrounded by tourists, in his Yankees cap and lime-green neon sneakers, he is a celebrity hiding in plain sight.

He waves his arms at the scene. (Caution: The difficulty for a writer bound by The New York Times’s style is that Spike Lee is gorgeously fluent in New Yorkese, including our birthright use of a certain four-letter word as verb, noun, adjective and adverb.)

“The diversity of this place is great,” he says. “But if every” New Yorker “is a millionaire, then New York City is going to suck!”

Mr. Lee lived in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill as a child. Then his mother, the family real estate visionary, bought a brownstone in Fort Greene for the princely sum of $40,000.

“Real estate people, they didn’t want to say Fort Greene back then. They’d call it ‘Brooklyn Heights vicinity.’ ”

He cackles. Gentrification and its discontents are never-ending New York obsessions; why shy away?

“I want everyone to live together in peace and harmony,” he says. “But let’s be honest, sometimes white folks move into Harlem, move into Bed-Stuy, and Fort Greene, and ‘Bogart’ like they’ve been there forever.

“That’s that Christopher Columbus” stuff, he says. “You can’t act like you been there forever.”

He chuckles again. “Although I will concede the garbage pickup in Fort Greene is a lot better since they moved in.”

Mr. Lee is about to release “Red Hook Summer,” yet another of his Brooklyn films that explore religion, race, gentrification and sex in the, God help it, ever more hip neighborhood of Red Hook. With a commanding performance by as a Baptist preacher, it is the sort of ambitious, dangerous and self-financed film that fewer filmmakers attempt anymore.

Most of the film’s action takes place in the public houses, ringed on all sides by gentry. “Tell me where people move when they get pushed out? After you get to Coney Island, it’s the Atlantic Ocean. What they going to do, put public houses on stilts out there?”


Enough ruminating. Mr. Lee is yelling at four young people sitting on the stairs. “Hey, y’know, you wearing that Chicago Cubs shirt — how can you wear that [unprintable word].”

The youths turn around, startled, then laughing.

“All I know,” Mr. Lee continues, smiling broadly, “is that it’s 19-[unprintable word]-08 since the Cubs won the World Series!”

They offer him a Cubs shirt. He recoils in mock horror. “Can’t take a Cubs shirt, no way.”

Knicks’ Mike Bibby Makes Contribution at Point Guard

With Deron Williams and Jordan Farmar out, the Nets split most of their point-guard minutes between Sundiata Gaines and Armon Johnson, both D-League veterans. For the Knicks, Mike Bibby started for an ill Baron Davis, and he was backed up by Toney Douglas.

Gaines (18 points, 6 assists) was one of the Nets’ best players and Johnson, fighting for a contract through the remainder of the season, added 6 points in the Knicks’ 104-95 win.

Both Bibby, a beleaguered veteran, and Douglas, an inconsistent youngster, were afterthoughts during the Linsanity Era. The position is the Knicks’ Achilles’ heel as they march confidently toward the playoffs.

Bibby finished plus-18 and may have stated his case for being a part of the playoff rotation, chipping in a season-high 8 assists and adding 8 points (his most since Jan. 7). Bibby, who has the reputation of being a defensive liability, struggled trying to contain Johnson and Gaines, but hit shots at critical junctures and, more often than not, he made the right pass.

“I believe in Mike Bibby,” Coach Mike Woodson said. “He doesn’t move that swift or up and down the floor as quickly as he used to. In games like this you need a stable guy out there who can direct traffic, and he played a lot of minutes. I thought he was solid all the way through in terms of running our offense.”

Woodson coached Bibby with the Atlanta Hawks and respects his postseason pedigree. Bibby was a high-scoring point guard for five consecutive Sacramento Kings playoff teams. While his production may have fallen off a cliff the way Wile E. Coyote does, Woodson’s continuing faith in him has generated reciprocal respect.

“There’s a big trust factor,” Woodson said. “I spent three years with Mike. We broke through with that Atlanta team with Mike running the point guard. The first year and then the next two years we were able to go to the second round with Mike running the point guard. So there’s a big time comfort level with Mike.”

Before the game, Bibby said he disagreed with the Hawks choosing not to renew Woodson’s contract in 2010. “I just think he got a raw deal in Atlanta,” Bibby said. “Win 53 games and don’t get hired back. You know, it’s kind of hard for me to fathom.”

Bibby’s performance against the Nets an in Tuesday’s win over the Celtics qualify as small steps in a positive direction.

“Last game was probably the first time this season I felt comfortable out there as far as handling the ball and getting the guys involved,” Bibby said of the victory over the Celtics.

If Bibby cracks the playoff rotation, the Knicks will cross their fingers that a player who has five 40-point games and 35 30-plus scoring games on his résumé can rediscover his jump shot.

“In Sacramento,” Bibby said. “I was scoring 20 points a game.

“Here, it’s a different role for me.” he added, explaining that his assignment is to set up shooters like Steve Novak and the rest of their teammates. “And when the time comes, I knock down the open ones.”

Bibby will turn 34 in mid-May, and the Knicks hope their season will still be in progress.