As the Knicks ended their preseason schedule Friday night by falling to the Nets, 113-107, at Madison Square Garden, some questions had been answered and roster spots clarified. But the identity of the starting point guard remains a mystery.
The player who had that role Friday night, Ron Baker, doesn’t figure to contend for the starting spot; he’ll play both guard spots off the bench. But in five games, first-year coach David Fizdale trotted out four different starters and let the mystery linger into the regular season.
That is part of the answer. The start of the regular season doesn’t bring the urgency for the Knicks that it does for some teams.
“I am definitely undecided going into the first game,” Fizdale said. “I don’t feel a deadline for game one like everybody else does. We’re not the Warriors or Houston or somebody where we have to know who we are, a set rotation, and get guys in their roles right away.
“We’ve still got a lot to figure out. We’ve still got a lot of guys we’re evaluating, figuring out how they fit into the puzzle. So this thing is something — like I said before, it could change. Going into it, I honestly don’t know right now who is the starting point guard.”
Frank Ntilikina had nine points, five assists, one steal and four rebounds in 29 minutes in the preseason finale, the best performance by any of the contenders for the starting point guard spot. Baker got the start as a reward for his usual hard work, the same work ethic that impressed former coach Jeff Hornacek and now has caught Fizdale’s eye.
“I just felt like the way Ron had finished a lot of those games and the way he’s been practicing, he deserved every opportunity to show what he can do in that group as well as anybody else,” Fizdale said.
Some things have become clear, including fitting one more guard on to the roster. The Knicks have 15 guaranteed contracts, but Joakim Noah is expected to be released shortly, making room for Noah Vonleh. But undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier has impressed enough that his two-way contract will be utilized for the full 45 days on an NBA roster, and Fizdale expects a move to keep him in the NBA when that is complete. The 45 days don’t begin until the G League season begins, so they have until mid-December.
“We are in the process of working on that,” Fizdale said. “Really trying to figure out the best way to stretch that out and utilize him both ways the best we can. But obviously, the kid has shown he’s an NBA basketball player and it’s just a matter of us doing it in a way that works out best for the overall team.
“He’s shown that he just has a knack for putting that ball in the hole. I think he’s really shown that he’s a competitor defensively at this age. But we’ll see how it plays out. We still have this game. We still have a few practices. We’ve got a lot of time to figure out 45 days of him working with us to figure out what’s the next move.”
Notes & quotes: Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 18 points in 26 minutes but suffered a sprained left wrist in the third quarter and did not return. X-rays were negative.