Even though he became a free agent when the Knicks turned down his $8MM option, Elfrid Payton was confident he would be returning to New York, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Speaking to reporters today via a Zoom call, Payton indicated that he never seriously considered any other team.
“From the beginning we always had intentions of me coming back, so I wasn’t really I guess worried,’’ he said.
Payton was part of a maligned trio of point guards, along with Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who shared time at the position last season. After listening to offseason speculation that the team would find a replacement through the draft or free agency, Payton believes all three will approach the season with something to prove.
“I feel like we’ve been counted out,’’ he said. “So just go out there and compete and show what we can do. That’s definitely something we want to use as motivation, as if we didn’t already have enough. But that’s definitely something we’ve spoken about in the locker room, even in these short days that we’ve been together.”
There’s more Knicks news to pass along:
- Smith is looking forward to a fresh start after a difficult 2019/20 season that began with the death of his stepmother, Berman adds in the same piece. Injuries and poor play limited him to just 34 games and a career-low 15.8 minutes per night. “I would say just understanding that nothing happens to you, it happens for you,’’ Smith said. “And I had to go through a lot of different things mentally — not even physically — mentally I had to go through a lot of different things to kind of understand that. But smooth waters never made (skilled) sailors, so I take it all in stride, and I’m going to keep getting better.’’
- Mitchell Robinson may be the team’s center of the future, but he’ll have to compete with free agent addition Nerlens Noel for the starting spot, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Regardless of how playing time shakes out, Noel expects to adopt a teaching role. “I just want to mentor him any way possible,” he said. “Whatever position we play throughout the season will play itself out. I want to be a big brother to him and give him a lot of advice throughout the season.”
- Lottery pick Obi Toppin is already impressing teammates with his athletic gifts, writes Ian Begley of SNY.TV. The rookie forward has been setting franchise records in agility, conditioning and athleticism drills.