With Tim Hardaway Jr. on the bench in sweats, unable to play, and lottery pick Kevin Knox making a brief appearance after seven games on the sideline with a sprained ankle, David Fizdale didn’t exactly have a lot of good options as he gathered the Knicks in a huddle to plot out a potential game-winning shot Monday night — a decision he had to ponder four times as the game went into double-overtime.
The first two tries, the Knicks coach put the ball in the hands of undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier. There was a missed foul-line jumper. Then there was a drive that found the Bulls defenders converging on him with Robin Lopez swatting the shot out of bounds. Then there was a turnover on an errant pass by Emmanuel Mudiay and a misfire from three-point range by Enes Kanter. The Knicks failed four times, and the result was a loss at home to the struggling Chicago Bulls.
Is there a name for second guessing four decisions? If there is, that’s what Fizdale was subjected to, mostly by his decision to hand the ball to an undrafted rookie 11 games into his career. But Fizdale didn’t hesitate — and neither did Trier.
“He’s going to have his moments for sure,” Fizdale said. “Obviously when Tim’s healthy he’s going to be a guy we look to in those situations as well. But 'Zo will definitely have ample opportunity in the crunch to win some of these games.
“I think all of the guys trust him in that situation. They all trust him in that moment. Again, for him, he’s not afraid of those moments. He wants the ball in his hands. I think it’s just a great experience for him to fail, succeed, whatever comes out of it, to be able to go through it and learn from it.”
Fizdale has shown trust in Trier, handing him his first career start Monday with Hardaway out with a back injury suffered the night before in Washington. But even before that he was willing to put the ball in Trier’s hands, outlining offensive rules in preseason that required players to move the ball with Trier the one exception on the team allowed to create his own shot. In Friday’s win in Dallas, the coach openly urged it — allowing Trier to control the ball for the last half of the fourth quarter rather than try to run any conventional offensive scheme.
Trier scored 23 points in Dallas and added 21 against the Bulls, although it wasn’t an easy 21. He started the night missing his first six shots. Frank Ntilikina also missed his first six, but he got buried on the bench for the rest of the night while Trier was allowed to shoot his way out of the slow start.
“Just got to have a short memory, continue to make the right basketball play,” Trier said. “Early on they were making it really tough on me. They were doubling me every time I came off a pick, running a lot of guys at me. I don’t think we really were ready for that. We didn’t expect that to happen early on, so we were kind of a little out of whack with that. Had to try to adjust as the game goes on. I kind of got a better feel of where my spots would be to attack. I tried to take advantage of that and be better.”