Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
David Fizdale says he has to watch the film of Wednesday's game against the Spurs before he decides who will start at point guard for the Knicks on Friday.
But it sounded like Elfrid Payton had earned the job.
"Elfrid absolutely put his foot forward, took it to heart and ramped up the competition," Fizdale said after the Knicks lost in San Antonio. "Like I said, I'm going to keep an open mind of this and whoever fights their way out of the pile, that's who's going to get the nod."
So much of this season will be about who Fizdale chooses to play and when.
His starting backcourt on Wednesday wasn't the answer. With RJ Barrett and Allonzo Trier on the court, New York fell behind by nine in the first six minutes.
When Payton checked in midway through the second quarter, the Knicks trailed by 13. Over the next 16 minutes, New York outscored San Antonio by 13 and carried a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.
"He stays ready. He's always ready," Marcus Morris said of Payton. "He showed us tonight, played well. Anchored the team. When he came in he changed the game for us."
Payton, who signed with the Knicks as a free agent over the summer, probably did enough to earn the starting job on Friday against Brooklyn. But he didn't seem to care about starting or coming off the bench when talking to reporters after Wednesday's game.
"That ain't really what I'm about," Payton said. "I'm just trying to win. Just trying to help the team win."
Payton finished with 11 points, five steals and eight assists, spearheading a solid defensive effort from New York.
Barrett 'ready' for bright lights
The Knicks lost a winnable game on Wednesday, but Barrett's debut was encouraging for a team that hopes to build around a solid young core.
"I told you, when the popcorn is popping that kid is ready," Fizdale said.
Barrett had 21 points, five rebounds and two steals in his NBA debut. He looked like the same calm, confident player that the Knicks saw during preseason, hitting nine of 13 shots (eight in the paint).
At 19 years and 131 days, Barrett was the second-youngest player to score more than 20 in his debut. LeBron James' 25 points at 18 years and 303 days is ahead of Barrett there, while Anthony Davis' 21 points at 19 years and 234 days comes in third.
Barrett helped lead a defense for New York that had 16 steals and forced 21 turnovers overall. New York scored 32 points off of turnovers on Wednesday, getting the easy baskets that were hard to come by for much of last season.
"He was fantastic -- I thought he really competed," Fizdale said of Barrett's defense. "He only had really one bad breakdown where he helped off the corner and gave up the three. Overall, he was playing both ends of the floor at a high level."
Barrett, Morris and Julius Randle combined for 72 points on 57 percent shooting.
Randle (25 points) left the game for a few minutes in the fourth quarter due to a cramp as the Spurs were on a 21-2 run. He admonished himself after the game for not being available during that time.
"I can't do that to my team," said Randle, who had 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals in his Knicks debut. "I'll fix it. It was unfortunate. Crucial part of the game and I've got to stay in it."
Fizdale preaches patience with Smith Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. was in foul trouble early on and played just 10 minutes off the bench in the Knicks' loss. He finished with two points and an assist.
"I think it's just rhythm. Just finding himself again. We'll get him there," Fizdale said. "It's tough, we've been together two and a half weeks as a team, three week, and he got knocked out for a week or so there. Just got to get him back into a rhythm, get him feeling his teammates, understanding his teammates. It's a long season."
Smith Jr. missed roughly two weeks of training camp/preseason with a back injury. When asked about Fizdale's assessment that more time with his new teammates and on the court in general would help get him untracked, Smith Jr. agreed.
"I believe so," Smith Jr. said. "I have a vision for myself that maybe no one else believes in, but I got it for myself. I can't let anyone get in the way of that."
- Fizdale felt the ball stopped moving too much during San Antonio's big fourth-quarter run.
- New York was outrebounded, 10-5, on the offensive glass and gave up 15 second-chance points.
- Fizdale has made rebounding and defense a point of emphasis in the preseason.
- Frank Ntilikina had two turnovers in three minutes in a second-half substitution for Payton, who was in foul trouble.