Stanley Johnson earns first preseason start for tonight’s matchup vs. Pacers

Well look who’s moving on up in the world.

For one game, at least.

Word emerged from’s Keith Langlois earlier this afternoon that rookie Stanley Johnson will be set to make his first start of the preseason this evening against the Indiana Pacers (7 p.m., television unknown).

With Johnson starting at small forward and pairing with Marcus Morris at the four, Ersan Ilyasova stands as the odd man out. At this point, there’s no word suggesting the lineup change is anything other than head coach Stan Van Gundy experimenting with different starting units as a means of planning ahead (Ilyasova hasn’t played more than 73 games since 2010).

In addition, Johnson’s start may allow for more opportunities off the bench for a handful of small forwards looking to squeeze onto the 15-man roster for opening night. While the 30-year-old Cartier Martin remains on the outside looking in (considering Van Gundy’s stated preference for youth in his final roster slots), tonight may bring about extended opportunities for Reggie Bullock and Adonis Thomas.

Thomas, a D-League All-Star as a member of the Grand Rapids Drive in 2015, has battled through Achilles pain in training camp. However, nearing full health, Van Gundy plans to give Thomas “significant minutes” at some point this week.

Bullock, meanwhile, has performed well in his preseason opportunities thus far.

“What I’ve seen from him and what gives you confidence as a coach is he goes very hard defensively, he’s pretty sound defensively and then offensively he stays within himself,” Van Gundy said. “He doesn’t try to do a lot of things he can’t do, doesn’t make many mistakes, runs your offense, moves the ball and he’s been making shots.”

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