Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Dennis Smith Jr. is expected to make his preseason debut on Wednesday against the Hawks, which adds a layer of intrigue to the Knicks' starting point guard competition.
Smith Jr. missed New York's first two preseason games due to a back strain. He returned to practice over the weekend and, barring a setback, will make his preseason debut on Wednesday.
The Knicks had taken a cautious approach with Smith Jr.'s ailment.
A structural issue in Smith Jr.'s back caused him to miss 10 of the Knicks' final 14 games.
Smith Jr. has said that this current back issue is unrelated to the strain. Smith Jr. is competing with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina for New York's starting point guard job.
Ntilikina missed Monday's practice with a groin issue. The Knicks said it wasn't believed to be significant, though any groin injury has to be a bit concerning for New York.
Ntilikina missed the final six weeks of last season due to a groin strain.
"I don't know exactly what it is. I know it's his groin," head coach David Fizdale said. "I think we're still in that realm of we would rather err on the side of caution, then try to push something when a guy feels something, especially in the preseason. We'll re-evaluate him Tuesday and see where he's at."
Ntilikina has dealt with several injuries - mostly minor - during his first two NBA seasons. The Knicks have until Oct. 31 to decide whether to pick up his contract option.
Damyean Dotson (shoulder) and Kevin Knox (calf) are both expected to return on Wednesday. Dotson was originally not expected to play in the preseason following offseason shoulder surgery. But his recovery has been quicker than expected. Knox missed Friday's game against Washington with a calf ailment but practiced on Monday.
Regarding the point guard competition, Fizdale doesn't expect to fully decide on a lineup until after Friday's preseason finale against New Orleans. And it sounds like he won't hesitate to change the lineup during the season if performance warrants such a change.
"Once the season starts, I want to keep that competition high. If a guy is carrying his weight and someone else is, we make a change then. I don't want these guys to get comfortable at all," he said.
Playoffs, All-Star nod on Randle's list: Julius Randle is entering his sixth season in the NBA. He hasn't made the playoffs yet, but he hopes to change that this season.
"I'm not going to sit here and talk about it every day but it's extremely important. That's what you work hard for," Randle said. "You talk about opportunity, this is my opportunity to be a real leader. So I just want to make sure everybody connected and we get better every day. I like our team compared to a lot of other teams. We do what we need to do every day to get better, that mental focus, lock in, stay connected, I like our team."
Randle, who signed a three-year, $63 million deal with New York over the summer, will be a focal point on offense. Fizdale has said that he'll use Randle all over the floor, including as a point forward at times.
He hopes to make the All Star team this season.
"I just feel like situation and opportunity. Everything I've been through in the past, all the work I've put in the past has prepared me for this opportunity now. So it's just a goal of mine," Randle said. "Eventually you feel like you have an opportunity. I feel like I do. So it's a goal of mine."
Here's Fizdale on whether he feels Randle can be an All Star: "Absolutely. I think a lots got to go right obviously. We've got to play good basketball. We've got to understand our roles. We've go to understand how to help him. But with the way that he approaches the game and his work ethic and his selflessness I think he'll have a chance."
Knox likes competing against Morris: Knox seems to be benefiting from practicing against a veteran like Marcus Morris.
"It's great. it's exactly what I need. Every single day, going against somebody that's been in the league a long time, is kind of established in the league," Knox said. "He's a great player defensively and offensively. He's always teaching me new moves in the post. Always telling me to take my time. He's a great person to go against, especially a vet like him that was pretty good last year. He shot great percentages. It's always good to learn from someone like that, that's really good, that I can learn from an take my game to the next level."
Barrett using his body: R.J Barrett is 6-7 and 215 pounds, so he isn't one of those rookies who needs to add a ton of muscle in order to compete in the NBA. Already in the preseason, you've seen Barrett use his strength to create an opening on drives to the basket and finish at the rim.
"I love it. The fact that he's 19 and he's already doing that to grown-ups that says a lot," Fizdale said. "Just constantly keep developing him to understand how to use that and when to use it. But I really like the fact that's already physically built for the league."
Barrett's agent, Bill Duffy, was a visitor at Knicks practice on Monday. He sat with president Steve Mills and Allan Houston, a special assistant to GM Scott Perry.
"Bill is a good friend of ours and a good friend of the program. Obviously he's RJ's guy. We try to stay in close communication with all of these guys agents," Fizdale said. "We built some really good relationships around the league when it comes to Scott and Steve and we try to make sure that they understand that there is an open door policy unless I have one of those practices that I say, nobody's coming in (smiles). And I've known Bill a long time, he's a Cali guy. So we were just talking about USD and one of his kids possibly going to school there. I'm rooting for that."