Ex-Lakers coach Riley gets a chance to mold Knicks in his image

October 13, 1991|By Clifton Brown | Clifton Brown,New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- When Pat Riley envisions the New York Knicks' season, he sees a team that will have a lethal fast break.

He sees a team that will have versatile players, capable of playing multiple positions. And he sees a team that opponents will dread playing against.

The Knicks' new coach intends to use the exhibition season, which began Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden, to develop a team in his image.

For the past two seasons, the Knicks have primarily been a half-court offensive team, relying on the low-post scoring of Patrick Ewing. But Riley is shifting gears. These Knicks will run. The question is, Can they run and win?

"We're going to make the transition and I think we'll be good at it,' Riley said at training camp in Charleston, S.C., earlier in the week.

"But nothing we're teaching them, nothing we're showing them, will make any difference if they don't run. If they don't run, it won't work.

"If someone doesn't want to run in this system, then I'll get someone into the game who will run. But those who run will be rewarded with easy baskets."

Riley believes the Knicks have the personnel suited for his up-tempo style. Mark Jackson is in excellent shape and has become quicker, and Greg Anthony will be one of the National Basketball Association's quickest rookies at guard.

Ewing is one of the league's most mobile centers, while John Starks and Gerald Wilkins both flourish in the open court. Kiki Vandeweghe is an excellent finisher on the fast break, and Xavier McDaniel believes he has enough versatility to adjust.

"I really haven't played on a running team since high school, so I'm looking forward to this," McDaniel said. "I can run. In Seattle, we only ran off of turnovers, but we ran in Phoenix. I like that style."

Because Riley wants the Knicks to run, however, does not mean he wants them to run wild. Riley's running game is a disciplined one, requiring players to run exact lanes, to anticipate one another's moves, without committing turnovers.

He was eager to see how disciplined the Knicks would be executing their offense under game conditions. He also planned to experiment with different combinations throughout the exhibition season.

"Starks, Gerald, X, Oakley and Anthony Mason all can play two positions, and we plan to take advantage of that,' Riley said. "If you can only make substitutions based on positions, then that really limits what you can do.

"We're going to experiment with a quick lineup, a big lineup any combinations we feel can be effective. Once players become comfortable, I think our versatility will be a definite advantage."

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