Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
David Fizdale plans to use several different lineups in the preseason. So we may see a different starting five when New York plays Washington on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
But Fizdale gave some interesting insight when he answered a question about his starting lineup for Monday’s preseason opener.
“I thought those guys, overall, played the best in practice and throughout camp,” he said.
Fizdale went with Elfrid Payton at point guard, RJ Barrett at shooting guard, Marcus Morris at small forward, Julius Randle at power forward and Mitchell Robinson at center on Monday.
The coach thought Payton was ‘fantastic’ in the Knicks’ win over Washington.
“He set the tone for the game on the ball and with his pace. He got a lot of people involved, kept us organized,” he said. “Steady and tough.”
The competition for the starting point guard spot is one of the more intriguing rotational battles for the Knicks.
Dennis Smith Jr. has been sidelined since Saturday with a back strain and was not available on Monday. So Payton was the obvious choice to start against Washington.
But, as Fizdale noted above, Payton also earned the nod by his performance in training camp. His thoughts echo what several players privately told friends about Payton’s play last week: they said it looked like he was playing his way into the starting point guard job, per SNY sources.
“He was getting us settled,” one player said.
Of course, the point guard decision won’t be based solely on Payton’s play in training camp.
The Knicks still have two weeks of practices and games to evaluate the position. But, as we noted over the summer, the expectation then was that Payton would be given every opportunity to win the starting job.
Worth noting here: Smith Jr., who was obtained in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, has started 119 out of his 122 career games. So playing off the bench would be a new, foreign role for Smith Jr.
Payton, who signed with the Knicks as a free agent this summer, had five points, five assists, two steals, two rebounds and two turnovers in 25 minutes on Monday. Backup Frank Ntilikina finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.
Visit to Walter Reed
Fizdale and the Knicks decided to stay in Washington on Tuesday to visit wounded veterans at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I just felt to visit those soldiers, it does something for (them). For our team, it gives them perspective and make you appreciate what you have,” Fizdale said Monday night before the visit. “Hopefully it gives them an understanding what service is, selflessness is. What I’m asking isn’t anything [compared] to what these guys have given. I know our guys are looking forward to it and it has an impact.”
Fizdale, Dennis Smith Jr., Julius Randle, Kevin Knox, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson and Marcus Morris visited wounded vets at the hospital, per the team.
The entire team and coaching staff, including team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry, signed autographs and took pictures with military personnel and medical staff.
One soldier was from Harlem. Another was from South Carolina and has mutual friends with Smith Jr., per the Knicks. The soldier told Smith Jr., a North Carolina native, that he looks up to him.
“We talk about sacrificing in the NBA. Those guys made the ultimate sacrifice,” Randle said Monday night. “A lot of things happened to them and they’re still 100 percent committed to what they’re doing. I’m excited, and it’s a good experience for all of us.”
The visit may have had added significance for Knox. Several of his family members served in the military. His uncle, Raymond Estelle, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan when Knox was a teenager.
“Every time it’s a Military Appreciation Night it’s always a big night for me because of (my uncle) and my family history with the military,” Knox said Monday night.
Bobby Portis sat out of Monday’s game with a left rib contusion. He said the injury had been bothering him for a few days and it flared up on Monday. Portis said he won’t need x-rays and hoped to be able to heal with two days of rest. The Knicks are expected to practice on Wednesday.
Here are a few more Fizdale observations from Monday’s game:
On RJ Barrett’s demeanor: “He’s just fearless. The thing I was most proud of was how he competed defensively. Bradley Beal is one of the best 2 guards in the league. RJ really took the challenge to battle him. When the game was starting to get a little lopsided there, you could just see when the lights are on this, this kid has an edge to him and he took over the game there for a stretch.”
On Julius Randle: “People are going to be locked in on him early. He’s got to get guys going and then the floor will open for him after he gets everybody else moving. I’m handing him the ball in a lot of situations. He brought the ball up. He played off the elbow, he played in the post. That’s a credit to his versatility.”
On playing Marcus Morris at small forward: “I just really feel like he has a lot of different skills. When he was in Boston they had so many wings that he had to take a backseat to those guys. And that’s just how it works sometimes. And he did it without batting an eye. But now he’s with us and playing the small forward position he can utilize those skills for us.”
Knox open to playing SG: Fizdale has talked to Knox about playing shooting guard at times this season. The second-year player is open to the opportunity, though he recognizes that he’d need to adjust to defending shorter, quicker players. One of Knox’s goals this season is to shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc. “I think my shot has gotten a lot better,” he said. “I’ve just got to eliminate bad shots and take the open ones.” Knox has added strength and improved his shooting mechanics over the summer. It will be interesting to see how that impacts his shot in Year 2.