By John Schmeelk
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Derek Fisher is about to realize how hard it is to be the Knicks’ head coach. As he prepares to roll out his first starting lineup of the preseason on Wednesday night, Fisher is realizing that he has far too many people on this roster that think they deserve to play.

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Point Guards: Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni, Shane Larkin

Shooting Guards: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony

Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Jason Smith

Center: Samuel Dalembert

That’s 11 players, and it doesn’t even include first-round pick Cleanthony Early. No team can play that many players in a normal rotation. Even worse, Stoudemire, Bargnani and Smith are all similarly deficient defensive players with the ability to score from mid-range. Stoudemire is obviously the most versatile offensively, with his ability to finish and post up, but his defense is probably the worst of the three. (That’s really saying something, given Bargnani is in that group.)

With so much money wrapped up in three power forwards, Fisher is starting the season with Anthony at the three and Stoudemire at power forward, something that has not worked in the past (especially from a defensive standpoint). As many mistakes as Mike Woodson and Mike D’Antoni made in their tenures here, they can’t be blamed for the incompatibility of Anthony and Stoudemire. They have played enough games together for every Knicks fan to know that it doesn’t work. They are a bad +/- waiting to happen.

Playing big with Anthony at small forward will also limit the amount of minutes the Knicks can give to their trio of talented shooting guards. Fisher is going to have to decide if he would rather play all three shooting guards or all three power forwards on the roster. Shumpert is the most talented defender on the team, Hardaway Jr. is an emerging scorer and Smith does Smith things. None of the three are perfect, but they all fit better next to Anthony than Stoudemire and Bargnani (and likely Smith).

Fisher will eventually have to choose which power forward isn’t going to play, and use the other two as a backup center and power forward. Smith is going to have to log increased minutes at small forward. Fisher shouldn’t get blamed for trying to use all his big men in the preseason, but it will be interesting to see how quickly he realizes that those lineup combinations aren’t going to work. Last year in the preseason it was painfully obvious that an Anthony, Bargnani and Chandler frontcourt was a disaster, yet Woodson continued to roll that group out there time and time again. Or perhaps by some miracle Fisher can make it work, but that would be some kind of miracle coaching job.

Aside from lineups, here are some other things that Knicks fans should be anxious to learn about their new team:

1) Does Fisher have a quick hook? Jeff Van Gundy used to yank individual players or even entire lineups if they played poorly, especially on defense. Will Fisher operate like that, or will he do things more like Woodson?

2) How will certain veterans — who might even think they are still stars — react to getting benched? Can Fisher pull off walking that coaching tightrope?

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3) Can Larkin beat out Prigioni for playing time? He is young, athletic and a good defender, but Prigioni has all the smarts and shooting ability to be a perfect backup point guard in the triangle. This will be an interesting battle.

4) Has Hardaway Jr. improved as a defender since last season?

5) Will Shumpert finally live up to his potential?

6) Will Early be able to earn time as a backup small forward to Anthony?

7) How will Melo’s weight loss affect him? Will he have more energy on defense? Will he finish better with more elevation? Can he still be an effective power forward?

8) Will Stoudemire make it through an entire preseason without hurting his knees or back? His “I feel phenomenal” mantra is something we hear every year before he goes out three months with a knee injury.

9) Can Cole Aldrich earn playing time ahead of Smith, Bargnani or Stoudemire as the backup center in certain matchups?

10) How much can the altered scheme help the team defensively despite the fact that they don’t have talented individual defenders?

11) And finally, can Anthony fit into the triangle? Will he get shots in rhythm in spots where he likes to score? Will the ball move? Will he be willing to move off the ball and cut for easy baskets? There needs to be patience in this area as the team learns the system.

The Knicks’ preseason does matter this year, and it should be fun to watch.

You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports. 

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