Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
SAN ANTONIO -- Mitchell Robinson will miss Wednesday's season-opener with a right ankle injury but there is reason to believe the injury isn't serious. Robinson, the second-year center, is wearing a walking boot, but he said Wednesday that it was just a precautionary measure.
David Fizdale is optimistic that Robinson can return for Friday's road game against the Brooklyn Nets.
With Robinson out, New York will have to adjust its starting lineup for opening night. Fizdale said he'd announce the starting lineup later on Wednesday.
The Knicks, per sources, had been considering starting lineups for opening night that included RJ Barrett and Allonzo Trier in the backcourt together and Trier and Barrett in the lineup alongside a traditional point guard.
Given that, and with Robinson out, here's an educated guess on the lineup:
Trier, Barrett, Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis.
This would leave Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton -- competing with Frank Ntilikina during training camp for the starting point guard spot -- coming off the bench.
Fizdale said on Wednesday that he'd considered many different permutations leading up to the opener -- "I lost count," he joked -- and some of them included Randle at center.
Fizdale's coaching staff has a role in the decision-making process.
"I always communicate to the front office what I'm thinking so we're always on the same page. But (my assistant coaches and I) get into the film and get into the numbers and combinations and all of that stuff. Look at different things like that," Fizdale said Wednesday morning. "My staff and I, we spend a lot of time talking about (it)."
The coach has stressed that the lineups can change over the course of the season, downplaying the significance of the opening night starting five.
"If you're not starting or in the rotation right now, you're talking about an 82-game season with a team of nine new guys that I'm trying to figure out," Fizdale said. "Keeping their minds clear and sharp is always going to be a premium."
If the Knicks go with the lineup above, that means Smith Jr. would come off the bench, something he's done sparingly as a pro.
Smith Jr. said on Wednesday that, no matter what happens, he will remain focused on his goals for the year.
"With situations like that, my faith is in me. My faith is in the work that I put in," Smith Jr. said. "And everything that I do. And I know that everything will work out for me. So I've just got to stay dedicated to what I do and keep my vision clear. I've got a vision for myself and I can't let anything get in the way of that, or anybody."
Smith Jr. was asked if he's disappointed over not being named the starting point guard yet.
He reiterated: "I've got a vision for myself and I've got my faith in me. My faith isn't in anybody else, it's in me. So I believe if I keep that up, I'll be where I want to be at….. I've got to come out and make my impact (on the court), keep my vision clear and keep my faith in myself and my work."
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.
Smith Jr. said on Wednesday that his back, at this point, is fully healthy and his conditioning is in a good place.
"I did a lot of work prior to injuring my back. And I did a lot of work after that. So my wind is good," he said.
It would be a bit of a surprise if 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.
Another note on Smith Jr.: He signed with agent Raymond Brothers of Roc Nation recently. The signing was announced on Tuesday. Here's what Smith Jr. said on Wednesday about it: "
It's been a real good relationship with Raymond (Brothers). Me and him built a great relationship," Smith Jr. said. "He has (Magic guard) Markelle (Fultz as a client), Markelle is like my brother, one of my closest friends in the league. So, you know, just a guy that I trust."
A few more notes from Wednesday's shootaround:
Here's what Fizdale expects from Barrett in his first regular season game: "Just competing defensively. Playing offense with a clear mind. Using all his skill sets from the standpoint of running the floor and attacking, taking his open shots and making plays for other people."
Barrett played more than 35 minutes per game in the preseason. Fizdale didn't rule out playing him that much in the opener if he's performing well.
Comparison to San Antonio: Fizdale was asked about the stability in the Spurs organization during Gregg Popovich's tenure and asked if that makes him optimistic about the future in New York.
"We started from scratch last year. We gutted it down," he said. "Now we're starting to build it back up. Even going back to Pop's first year here, they won 17 games or 19 games with David Robinson and they ended up getting Tim (Duncan). They built it from scratch too. Hopefully when you look at stuff like that it gives you hope you can build something special."
Fizdale didn't think Marcus Morris would be affected by boos from the Spurs crowd tonight. Morris reneged on a free-agent agreement with San Antonio in July and signed with the Knicks. Wednesday, obviously, is his first game in San Antonio since then.