Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Mitchell Robinson will start at center on Wednesday against Detroit. The Knicks want Robinson defending Pistons big man Andre Drummond. This will be the fifth different starting lineup for New York in eight games.
Some of the lineup shifts are due to injury (Elfrid Payton) and others are the result of David Fizdale and his staff trying to figure out New York's optimal player groupings.
Experimenting with different lineups during the season isn't ideal. In a perfect world, teams have lineups and rotations set coming into the season. But that's rare in today's NBA, where there's so much roster turnover every summer. Depending on the night, the Knicks (1-6) could have six players in their rotation who weren't on the team last season.
So Fizdale and his staff are figuring things out on the fly. Some fans/media believe he should have his lineups set already and the juggling is impacting the team, though players say that isn't the case.
On Tuesday, Fizdale talked about the demands of trying to find the Knicks' best lineup combinations during the season.
"That's literally been the biggest challenge, just figuring out who plays well together, what combinations go well together, while you're in the heat of the battle trying to win games," the coach said. "That has definitely been one of the toughest challenges, but we expected that to be one of the toughest challenges. When you add that many new faces, we knew that trying to figure this group out was going to take a minute.
"But we're learning something every day, every game about this group: about who plays well together, what pieces fit well together. And hopefully once we can establish that, guys can really get into a groove, into a rhythm, settle in and play."
Frank Ntilikina will likely be starting at point guard for the next three games. Payton will not be with the Knicks during their road trip to Detroit and Dallas this week. His hamstring injury will be re-evaluated on Sunday. Dennis Smith Jr. remains away from the team while mourning the loss of a close family member. There's a chance that he rejoins the team during the trip, but it doesn't sound like his body would be ready to play during the road trip.
One of the bigger challenges for New York is trying to get Julius Randle comfortable in his new role. Randle is being asked to do things this season that he wasn't responsible before on past teams (defend, be the No. 1 option on offense and consistently find scoring opportunities for teammates). He's also seeing more attention from defenses than he has in the past.
"He's getting a whole lot put on him and teams are definitely running a lot of guys at him but his approach has been great. He comes in here, he watches the film, gets into simplifying things," Fizdale said of Randle. "We talk about things we can do as a team to help him. He's going to get there. I really believe that he's going to have a breakthrough at some point soon and that this will be behind him."
Fizdale added that he talks to players regularly about their changing roles as he tries to figure out the optimal lineups for New York.
"We're very transparent with these guys. I like to communicate, overcommunicate to them what's going on," he said. "They're all on board and they understand what I'm trying to accomplish and what I'm trying to get done in figuring this thing out. Like I said, it's a credit to them as a team that they're all in that way."