Life after Carmelo Anthony begins for rebuilding Knicks

NEW YORK -- At some point in the past week, Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony exchanged text messages.

Porzingis didn't want to get into the specifics of his conversation with Anthony, but he did share one observation Anthony made about his new home.

"He said it's different. It's different for him now," Porzingis said late Tuesday night. "It's a different team, everything is different."

Things are different for the New York Knicks as well, of course.

For the first time in nearly seven years, the Knicks played a game without Anthony on the roster. Nigel Hayes and Luke Kornet were sharing Anthony's old locker at Madison Square Garden. Porzingis took his spot in pregame introductions.

But it was clear on Tuesday that replacing Anthony on the court won’t be as easy. New York lost its preseason opener 115-107 to the Brooklyn Nets. Nearly 1,400 miles away, Anthony was starting his new NBA life with Oklahoma City. He had 19 points in the Thunder's preseason loss to the Houston Rockets.

The Knicks' loss to Brooklyn figures to be the first of many long nights for a Knicks team that's rebuilding in the wake of the Anthony trade.

"We have a little work to do," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said after his club allowed 93 points in the first three quarters to the Nets.

Some poor shot selection and shoddy perimeter defense hurt New York over long stretches of the second and third quarters in its preseason opener. Brooklyn built an 18-point lead in that span thanks, in part, to several open looks from beyond the arc (the Nets hit four of six 3-pointers in the third quarter).

New York allowed the Nets to hit 16 of 32 3s overall -- the result of poor one-on-one defense creating vulnerabilities in the defense, Hornacek said.

Of course, it's only the first preseason game. The Knicks have plenty of time to iron out mistakes on defense from Tuesday. (Whether they have the personnel to play solid NBA defense is another question, of course.)

If this season is about building for the future, there were a few reasons to be optimistic about the Knicks' play against Brooklyn.

Rookie Frank Ntilikina didn't shoot well in his debut but his teammates and Hornacek praised him for dealing with pressure well, running the offense and making decisions. Ntilikina finished with five points, three assists and two turnovers in 18 minutes.

The Knicks' starting unit (Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kyle O'Quinn, Doug McDermott, Ramon Sessions) played well in the opening minutes as the Knicks led by eight midway through the first. New York had 14 assists on 21 made field goals in the first half. Hardaway moved the ball well in transition early on and shot well from beyond the arc (5-for-11).

There are now four preseason games -- and dozens of practice hours -- left before the Knicks open the season against Anthony and the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Oct. 19. Hornacek and his staff will look at different lineups and defensive pairings over the preseason to figure out which groups work well together and which should be eschewed. They'll try to iron out mistakes on defense and implement the remainder of the new offense. And they'll figure out an optimal rotation.

"There's a lot of things we'll see on that tape, we'll show the guys and we'll work on it," Hornacek said.

Then the lights will come on in Oklahoma City -- and life without Anthony begins in earnest. If Tuesday night is any indication, it won't be easy.