Knicks set to host Heat in delayed season opener
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- LeBron James and the champs. Opening night at Madison Square Garden.
Under normal circumstances, as electric a scene as there is in the NBA.
Things are still far from normal in New York.
Already postponed once by Superstorm Sandy, the New York Knicks will begin their season Friday night against the Miami Heat, not sure what to expect when they take the floor but hoping it helps their devastated city in some way.
"I think because of the way this year is starting, I think it's going to be even more emotional," forward Steve Novak said Thursday after practice.
"Because of the hurricane and all that, it's almost like I feel like people from New York almost need a release. The Garden is going to be kind of a getaway from that for a little bit. It's hard to know what to expect, whether it's going to be a full house, which we would always almost expect because that's just the way it is at the Garden. But now with the hurricane it just changes everything up, so I don't know what to expect. But either way it will be great to be in the building."
The Knicks had been scheduled to open their season Thursday in Brooklyn against the Nets. That game was postponed Wednesday at the request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg because the city's mass-transit system is still so crippled by the storm that getting there would have been impossible or dangerous for many. It will be played on Nov. 26.
There wasn't the same transportation concern with the Garden, much more accessible by car and with much more available parking in Manhattan.
James said Thursday it's always good to be back in the building he and other players call "the mecca of basketball," and he was thinking about the victims of the deadly storm.
"I hope all the families that either lost loved ones or their houses have been destroyed or whatever the case may be, our prayers go out to them," he said. "I hope everyone is being looked after."
Many Heat players ventured out in New York after the team charter arrived Thursday night. A couple hours after the plane landed, Dwyane Wade called what he was seeing "a tragic hit" for New York -- perhaps his favorite road venue. Wade tweeted he couldn't help but think about the "families that don't have power, food, water."
Friday's crowd may still be littered with the A-listers who occupy the expensive seats for big games, or it may feel a little like a midweek winter night in someplace like Minnesota or Milwaukee if fans aren't ready to pack the place just yet.
"I mean, it's hard to say. At the end of the day, it's just a game," guard Ronnie Brewer said. "When you put it into retrospect, outside the Garden or the game that was supposed to be played tonight outside the Barclays Center, there's people without electricity, people without homes, people who've lost loved ones. So I still think our heart goes out to them.
"We've got to focus at the task at hand, but at the same time, you know hopefully this game can uplift some people, give people in New York something to cheer about. But after that game it goes back to real life. There's still people out in New York that's still struggling and still need some relief."
The Knicks played all their preseason games on the road with the Garden going through a second round of renovations during the offseason, so this is their first home game since beating the Heat in Game 4 of last season's first-round playoff series. Miami wrapped up the series in Game 5 on its way to the NBA title.
The Heat appeared to get stronger during the offseason with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and opened their season Tuesday with a 120-107 victory over the Boston Celtics. The Knicks believe they've also improved with their offseason moves, but don't begin the season in good shape.
Amare Stoudemire had left knee surgery Wednesday and could miss two months. Key reserves Marcus Camby and JR Smith were banged up for almost the entire preseason, and Rasheed Wallace never got into a game while building his conditioning after a two-year retirement, so it could be a rocky start against a rough opponent.
"I think early on it's always best to play great teams, just to gauge, to see where you are as a team," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Our schedule is what it is, we've got some tough opponents coming up, but we can't run from it, it's what it is. We've got to step on the floor tomorrow and be ready to play."
Even though the Knicks expected to play the Nets first, Woodson said they were already looking at the Heat since there wouldn't have been much time otherwise on the second night of back-to-back games. Still, it's not an easy transition.
"A little different, because you're expecting to prepare for Brooklyn and then you have to adjust, well the coaches have to adjust, and we have to get our mind right for Miami," Camby said. "But our attention was there. We know it's a big ballgame, they're the defending champs coming into our building."
"The fans are excited we're back," he added, "and hopefully we'll put on a strong performance."
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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