In his Knicks audition, PG Emmanuel Mudiay hasn't had the best of starts. But that doesn't mean that head coach Jeff Hornacek has given up on the 22-year-old.
Mudiay has earned five starts in the eight games he has played since being traded, and his struggles to get the offense going have been noticeable. His own offense has failed to make an impact as well.
After a 20-point night against the Warriors where he shot 8-for-15, including 3-of-5 from three, Mudiay has shot 2-for-16 in the last two games. The Knicks' latest matchup against the Kings on Sunday saw him miss all six shot attempts, and force Hornacek to bench him for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Mudiay is hoping to put that game in the past.
"You got to forget about that night," he told The Post's Marc Berman. "It was a bad night. One thing about the NBA that is good you got a lot of games. So you can make it up tomorrow."
Hornacek wants to fix Mudiay's shooting woes, and he may have found a fix in his form that he says has a hitch.
"He even said it, he's got that little hitch in there that he felt like prior to this he was getting rid of," Hornacek noted. "And then it's kind of come back on him. The Golden State game he didn't shoot with the hitch and he made a bunch of shots. They figure out what they're doing wrong and he was out there trying to correct it today. Guys are going to have off nights."
Since coming over to New York, Mudiay is shooting just 35.4 percent with an even worse 13.6 percent (3-for-22) from three.
If Mudiay continues to struggle, it begs the question whether or not Hornacek wants to give rookie PG Frank Ntilikina any starts. In 61 games, he has yet to see his name in the starting lineup despite being the Knicks' first-rounder this past June.
Hornacek doesn't think starts make a difference if he is getting significant minutes.
"I'm not sure it matters a whole lot," Hornacek said. "I think the more minutes is helpful. Just because we start someone this year at the end doesn't mean that's who's starting next year. That's meaningless. It's the summer of work, what we see the rest of the year, how the guys go in the summer and come back the next year and what they work on. As long as we get [Ntilikina] minutes and keep getting him experiences, I think that's good."
Mudiay knows that he will be analyzed with a fine tooth comb the rest of the season.
"I got to start playing better, obviously," he said.
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We forget that Mudiay is just 22 years old. He got to the league at just 19, and he is continuing to grow. But in his third season, he's got to start getting better and not regressing.
The Knicks have him under contract next season, so he's going to play. The issue is his consistency, which has been alarming so far. He had that one great night, but outside that, he's been below mediocre. The frustrating part about it is that he clearly has talent, and has the ability to get to the basket and score. He just continues to miss shots badly, and on top of that, his form has definitely changed. You can see a noticeable change in his delivery that may be causing some of these misses.
It's hard to fathom why Jeff Hornacek hasn't started Ntilikina yet. He's got to let Mudiay prove he deserves to start at this point, because if he's going to play as bad as he has starting, he's got to come off the bench. The Knicks aren't making the playoffs, which makes it hard to understand why Ntilikina isn't starting and playing against the best, versus playing against the bench players for all their opponents.
Mudiay was shooting 40 percent with the Nuggets this season, and 37 percent for his career. He clearly has had the ability to score in the past at a better rate than he is with the Knicks. It may be time for Ntilikina and Courtney Lee in the backcourt for now to start with Mudiay coming off the bench.
Next year will be a contract year for him, so I'm sure he is going to be playing at his best, and the Knicks are going to need just that.