SAN ANTONIO - All the players battling for the Knicks' starting point guard spot will be coming off the bench to start the season.
David Fizdale is going with a starting lineup of RJ Barrett, Allonzo Trier, Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, and Bobby Portis to start the season.
"I just like that combination of RJ and Allonzo Trier together," Fizdale said before tipoff of the Knicks' season-opener against the Spurs.
"Again, the competition is still on and I'm still searching for combinations that's going to fit, but coming into this, I wanted to see how that looks.
"I'm going to keep putting it on them to really have to earn it, to really force me to play you. None of this is in stone, but at the same time, the competition is on."
So Barrett will not only be getting the start in his first NBA game, but the third overall pick will also do a good amount of ball handling in his debut.
"I just think he can handle it." Fizdale said. "He's just got a way about him. I really like the way that he plays the game. he's just so versatile. He really understands what we're tying to get done, so I wanted to see how it looked with a guy in there with that kind of size and handling."
Fizdale said Barrett and Trier earned their starting spots by the way they played in training camp/preseason.
"I feel like RJ actually forced it," Fizdale said. "I really liked the way Zo played. By no means is this an indictment on anybody or stuck in stone. I still want these guys to be fighting for that top spot. I'll keep expressing that to them."
Fizdale was also asked if his decision to start Barrett and Trier in the backcourt would have been different if Mitchell Robinson was healthy, but the Knicks' head coach explained he was probably going with that duo in the backcourt even if Robinson was playing.
Fizdale likes how Trier's shooting helps the Knicks space the floor. The second-year guard shot 39 percent from beyond the arc last season. Trier and Barrett in the starting lineup pushes Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton to the bench for the opener.
"They all competed their butts off. There was no lack in competition," Fizdale said of the three point guards. "I just really liked the way RJ and Zo played."
Fizdale has said that his lineup could fluctuate over the course of the season. So the starters could be different on Friday in Brooklyn.
But on Wednesday reiterated on Wednesday that lineups be based on meritocracy, so the starting backcourt appears to be Barrett and Trier until they underperform or are outplayed by the reserves.
Smith Jr. was out for roughly 10 days during preseason with a back issue. He played with rust in his two preseason games, though he made an impact on defense and shot creation for his teammates in New York's preseason finale.
"It had an affect on him for sure," Fizdale said of Smith Jr.'s back injury. "He's starting to get his legs underneath him now and getting his wind back to where it was and his rhythm. Like I said, it'll be a fluid situation and it can change."
It's a bit of a surprise that neither Smith Jr. nor Payton started at point guard on Wednesday because of the context surrounding their acquisitions.
New York signed Payton in the offseason to a two-year deal (one year guaranteed) for $8 million annually over the summer. And the Knicks acquired Smith Jr. in the trade of Kristaps Porzingis. They also acquired two future first-round picks and cap space. Exactly what happens with those picks and cap space is to be determined.
So Smith Jr. is the most significant return in the transaction thus far.
Given that, the organization, you'd think, is fully invested in both Smith and Payton's success. If neither player starts on Wednesday, it's an indication that Fizdale will be handing out minutes based on meritocracy this year, which wasn't always the case last season.
"I'm going to keep putting it on them to really have to earn it and really force me to play you," Fizdale said on Wednesday of his approach to playing time. "None of this is in stone, but at the same time the competition is on."