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Knicks season preview: Derek Fisher looks to instill toughness

The Knicks have a new coach, but a whole lot of age still on the roster.
Derek Fisher

Derek Fisher retired after an 18-year career to take the head coaching job with thGetty Images

The Knicks begin their new era Wednesday night with arguably as many questions as answers.

And of all the questions, right at the top is how new head coach Derek Fisher can change the culture of a Knicks team that has undergone a roster facelift in hopes of making them a tougher outfit.

Fisher reasoned a brutal two-game stretch to start the season featuring matchups with the Bulls and Cavaliers makes it imperative that the starters jell and mold themselves in the form of their tough-as-nails coach.

“We’re pretty close,” said Fisher when asked if he’s settling on a regular rotation, if not starting lineup. “We’re still identifying a specific group of guys that work best together, but I think it’s safe to say we’re close to nailing it down. … The recent workouts, I think, have gotten guys more comfortable with each other and defining roles.”

One new wrinkle already in place, as Fisher searches for the best and toughest lineup, is to field a five-some featuring “traditional bigs,” including mid-level exception signee Jason Smith at power forward and Samuel Dalembert at the pivot.

“I like what Jason brings to the table … skill and toughness. And he’s really getting more comfortable with his teammates out there,” said Fisher when asked about the training camp battle at the power forward position that saw Smith beat out the likes of Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Quincy Acy.

All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, fresh off re-signing during the offseason, already knows his role as the only true superstar on the roster. And while his contribution will still be mainly be as a scorer, he’s aware of the expansion his game must undergo in the new Triangle offense — and is also cognizant of how the team still needs to grow together as a whole.

“We’re confident heading in, but we also know it’s a work in progress,” said Anthony, following the team’s final preseason practice before the opener. “But at the same time, we have a chance to create something here and we’re excited about it.”

Anthony is ready to come out of the gate firing, even if the team is an acknowledged work in progress.Facing Derrick Rose and LeBron James will at least be a measuring stick early.

“We’re competitive, so we want those games, want those challenges,” Anthony said. “As a player and athlete you should want those moments [and] embrace those moments.”

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.

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