The preseason didn’t bring any clarity to the Knicks‘ search for a starting point guard, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Frank Ntilikina was supposed to have rediscovered his game after a strong summer of international competition, creating an intriguing battle with holdover Dennis Smith Jr. and free agent addition Elfrid Payton. However, nobody has stepped forward to claim the job. Ntilikina appears to be an “afterthought” again, according to Popper, as he sat out Friday’s preseason finale while Smith went 2-of-12 from the field and Payton had five turnovers.
“I don’t want to think about it,” coach David Fizdale said of the point guard competition. “I’ll tell you guys the next time I see you. No, they competed. They really competed hard. They’re making it tough on me. They’re making a tough decision for me.”
Popper suggests rookie RJ Barrett might be the best choice, even though he’s not a traditional point guard. Barrett was a standout throughout the preseason, even though he spent time at three positions.
There’s more this morning from New York:
- The Knicks have until the end of the month to pick up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option at $6.3MM, but Marc Berman of the New York Post hears that a decision could be made before Wednesday’s season opener to avoid having it become a distraction.
- In the same piece, Fizdale laments not having enough preseason games to adequately work out some important lineup decisions. The Knicks could have played up to six games, but management opted for four. In addition to the point guard battle, Fizdale has to determine whether Mitchell Robinson or Bobby Portis will be the starting center and he has to work out minutes at shooting guard with Wayne Ellington, Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson all in the mix, along with Barrett. “We understand where we are with a lot of new faces, but still are going out to compete to win,’’ Fizdale promised. “I don’t make any excuses. We’ll keep working through the chemistry and try to get wins.”
- Contrary to their public statements, the Knicks’ front office was “stunned and depressed” when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving announced their decisions to sign with the Nets, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic.