Weekday afternoon basketball is usually limited to the Summer Olympics, which made for a familiar feeling when the Knicks and Pistons tipped off in their transatlantic road trip on Thursday.
The teams were in London, site of the U.S. march to the gold medal last summer, and Carmelo Anthony was shooting like he was facing Nigeria all over again. Anthony hit a couple of long threes in the first half to summon memories of his 37-point day last August and the Knicks only had to sweat a little bit in what turned out to be a 102-87 win.
Anthony had his moment to reminisce early and wound up with a game-high 26 points, but the day really belonged to Knicks guard Iman Shumpert. Shumpert made his regular season debut after missing more than eight months because of the torn ACL he suffered in the playoff opener against the Heat last year.
Shumpert played 15 minutes and looked to be in pretty fair shape when he tried to elevate for a dunk in the second quarter that wound up clanging off the rim due to Shumpert's overly optimistic read on his own abilities. The confidence to take that shot and the fluidity he showed on some other cuts are both positive signs about the possibility he'll be a bigger help down the road.
The Knicks haven't been getting much from Ronnie Brewer from quite some time and they are going to be without Raymond Felton a little while longer, offering up a big role for Shumpert on both ends of the floor. He wound up with eight points, a steal, a block and a nifty dish to Tyson Chandler for a dunk.
Amar'e Stoudemire's been back for a while now, but Thursday was one of the most back performances that he's had to date. He scored 17 points and shot 12 free throws as his drives to the hoop crossed the line of explosiveness that leads to fouls rather than blocks.
Stoudemire's return has been fitful, but you could see things starting to work out for him a bit more easily on Thursday afternoon. While playing a team like the Pistons helps make it easier to find your game, the Knicks will take the good signs where they get them.
London agreed with Melo last summer and agreed with the Knicks again on Thursday. It's a shame that they can't get a few of their Eastern Conference rivals to move there.