Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Frank Ntilikina will likely sit out of Friday's preseason finale on Friday so the Knicks can see more of Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. at point guard.
"Frank has played three (games), Elfrid has played two, Dennis is now going to play two, so I feel like I'm getting them all (playing time)," David Fizdale said Thursday. "… I feel like I gave all three guys ample opportunity to show what he can do."
Fizdale is choosing among Ntilikina, Payton and Smith Jr. for his starting point guard. Smith Jr. missed about ten days with a back ailment during preseason and looked rusty during his preseason debut Wednesday. He should get plenty of minutes on Friday against New Orleans.
"His body seems to be doing OK," Fizdale said. "He had a really good practice."
Fizdale cautioned not too overvalue his starting lineup on opening night. He will tweak minutes and roles based on performance.
"(Lineups) are not set in stone just because we're getting out of preseason," the coach said. "That thing can always be a revolving door because these guys are so competitive. From one week to the next, it can be a different guy. And I want them to stay on edge like that."
Particularly in the backcourt and wing positions, Fizdale has plenty of options. He's been starting RJ Barrett at shooting guard ahead of Wayne Ellington, Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson. (Trier didn't play on Wednesday but will play with the second unit on Friday).
At small forward/wing, Fizdale has started Marcus Morris ahead of Kevin Knox II.
No matter who he plays on a given night, there will be several players left out of the rotation who came into the season expecting to play. So it shouldn't be a surprise that, per SNY sources, there has already been some grumbling about minutes/roles.
Players not being thrilled about their minutes/roles is pretty common in the NBA. All coaches/teams deal with it to a certain degree. But the idea that the Knicks have so many players who - from the outside at least - can make a case for a spot in the rotation makes this something to keep an eye on.
No Zion Williamson for Pelicans on Friday
Fizdale's assessment of Zion Williamson is probably the same as yours.
"He's a monster. It's exactly what I think everybody thought he was going to be. He's a beast," Fizdale said on Thursday ahead of the Knicks' preseason finale against the Pelicans. "He's just going to continue to get better and better. We understand that kid is a heck of a player."
On Thursday afternoon, the Pelicans announced that Williamson will not travel with the team to New York because of right knee soreness, so his first matchup against his teammate at Duke at Madison Square Garden will have to wait. Still, the Knicks know how talented the first overall pick is on the floor.
Barrett said he isn't surprised by how well Williamson has played in preseason. He's averaging 23 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while hitting 71 percent of his attempts.
"He's too big, too strong," Barrett said. "He's going to continue to do that hopefully over his whole career."
Barrett and Williamson grew close in college. The Knicks rookie calls Williamson one of his best friends. In college, they talked about playing together in the NBA. That would mean at least one of them would have to leave their current franchise. Barrett, as you'd expect, said on Thursday that he hoped to be a lifelong Knick.
"Me playing in New York for my whole career, it sounds great to be honest," Barrett said. "That's an honor, so hopefully."
Fizdale, who said the Knicks never had any doubt Williamson's game would translate to the NBA, and had planned to start Julius Randle on the No. 1 overall pick Friday.
Randle was complimentary of Williamson when asked about him Thursday.
"He plays extremely hard. I'm a fan of him," Randle said. "He has an extremely high motor and is in a great situation over there in New Orleans for sure."
Randle will be playing the Pelicans for the first time since leaving New Orleans to sign with the Knicks. He says he has no ill feelings toward the organization.
"I love those guys over there. It was extra (motivation to face the Lakers, the team that drafted Randle) for me but it wasn't extra in New Orleans. That situation ended great," Randle said. "I got a lot of love for those guys over there. I had a great time, a great year over there."
The Knicks felt they defended relatively well against Atlanta after struggling on defense in their preseason loss to Washington.
"I love what we did on the defensive end," Randle said.
The Knicks held the Hawks to 37 percent shooting in a 100-96 loss. Atlanta missed 24 of its 34 3-point attempts but Fizdale pointed to a few of Vince Carter's made threes as things that could be cleaned up. He felt the Knicks made mistakes in perimeter coverage on a few of Carter's attempts.
"The things that we're kicking ourselves about today is much more the threes that we gave up to Vince… and the rebounding. It's something we've got to really remedy right now because other than (that), our defense is really playing out to be solid looking at the numbers after three games," Fizdale said. "Defending the paint, defensive field-goal percentage, all of those things. Those numbers are starting to show really well. But we've got to take care of the glass."
Guests at practice
The Knicks have had several guests at training camp/preseason practices. John Calipari visited. Bernard King was there, as was Kenny Smith. On Thursday, Daniel Day, aka Dapper Dan, the influential Harlem clothing designer, was a guest. He spent time with president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry, Vice President for player development Craig Robinson and others. Here's more on Dan's background.