Without the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, and Kenyon Martin (and not to mention, the rehabbing Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith), the Celtics took advantage of the Knicks on Saturday. They separated themselves late in the game, and defeated New York by a score of 111-81.
That's the bad news. The good news is the game didn't count and doesn't mean a darn thing. As we've mentioned before, the preseason is a chance to evaluate, not go out and gun for victories.
The Knicks already know what players like Anthony, Chandler, and co. can do. This time is only utilized correctly if the team uses it to take a look at players who they otherwise haven't seen much of to this point.
One of those very players is, of course, Ike Diogu. Currently on a training camp/preseason contract, the 30 year old and former NBA lottery selection has failed to truly stick around in The Association. But on a night where many things went wrong for the Knicks, Ike Diogu did everything right. He scored 21 points and grabbed 8 rebounds off the bench, which is certainly impressive in itself. But more intriguing, however, is how he was able to pour in the points.
Diogu is a fighter. He's aggressive. He's physical. But more importantly, he knows how to channel all of that energy in the right direction and use it to his advantage. Diogu muscled his way inside to get to the hoop. He fought for easy buckets and rebounds, drawing an array of fouls from his opponents. The big man shot 9 of 11 from the charity stripe.
It's a huge plus that after all these years, Diogu can still assert himself offensively with such ease. For many players, a performance like the one Diogu logged against the Celtics would be enough to secure their spot on an opening night roster. But for the big man and some of his counterparts, it ultimately comes down to what kind of skill set the Knicks are looking for out of such a player.
Diogu was able to pour in the points on Saturday because he was embraced as the go-to guy with the guys whom with he played. Such an occurrence wouldn't take place with any of New York's other key players on the floor. With that in mind, the question becomes can he make an impact in other ways as well?
Diogu was impressive on Saturday, but where other big men like Cole Aldrich and Josh Powell have succeeded thus far has been in putting forth gritty and physical efforts on defense as well. At just 6'8" and 255 pounds, will Diogu be able to do the same?
At this point, it would appear as though Cole Aldrich has the edge. He does everything you could possibly want out of a grinder, or a junkyard dog of sorts. As his plus/minus through three preseason games suggests, the Knicks are better when he's on the floor. The former Thunder big man can certainly make his presence felt playing alongside some of the team's more key players.
In addition to Diogu and Aldrich, Powell is also fighting for a spot. It's unlikely that the Knicks hang on to two out of the three, but either way, the latter would appear to be the odd man out. Though Powell looked more than serviceable on Saturday night (his ferocious block at the end of the first half being a highlight), he's gotten off to a late start this preseason. His first two contests made him look incapable of competing at the NBA level.
In any event, it will be interesting to see if Diogu will be able to continue asserting himself defensively as well. If he's able to do that, such versatility in his game may give him the leg up on the other two remaining big men competing for a spot.