Dennis Smith Jr. has become the scapegoat for Knicks‘ fans in an 0-3 start, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Smith turned in his third straight ugly performance last night in the team’s home opener, missing all three of his shots in 11 minutes and falling to 1-of-11 for the season. He was 3-of-17 in two preseason games after returning from a back issue. Fans booed loudly when he was in the game and started a “We want Frank” chant in the second half, referring to little-used guard Frank Ntilikina.
Smith is being singled out because he was the key piece the team received in the January trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. Porzingis has recovered from a torn ACL and is averaging 23.5 PPG in his first two games with the Mavericks. The trade also gave the Knicks enough cap room to sign two max-level free agents, but they missed on their top targets, further angering their fans.
“Our fans are passionate. I get it,’’ Fizdale said of the reaction to Smith. “The kid is obviously struggling. We’ll look at the situation and continue to adjust. (The fans) know what they like and what they want. It doesn’t do anything to my mindset. I’m going to coach this team.’’
There’s more this morning from New York:
- Fizdale told reporters that Ntilikina will eventually get a chance to earn playing time and hinted that a shooting slump is keeping him out of the lineup, Berman adds in the same piece. The 2017 lottery pick has been on the court for three total minutes this season. “It’s three games in,’’ Fizdale said. “It’s not like 20 games into the season. But other guys will get opportunities. That’s how it will work. You either perform and get it done or you’re not. (Ntilikina is) overthinking it and pressing it. He’s mentally tough and he’s struggling right now, but he’ll find his way out of it.’’
- Marcus Morris had an unusual free agent experience this summer, verbally committing to the Spurs before switching to the Knicks when they made a better offer. However, that could have been avoided if the Celtics had tried to keep him, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “I guess that’s the business,” Morris said. “I thought I at least deserved a phone call, but it is what it is.”
- At age 19, RJ Barrett looks ready for any challenge, including a game-deciding battle with Kyrie Irving, observes Steve Popper of Newsday.