Elfrid Payton was part of the Knicks’ roster purge just ahead of free agency, waived as the team cleared cap space. But days later he was back and said he never thought he’d be anyplace else.
While Payton was in limbo after the Knicks did not pick up the second year of his contract that would have paid him $8 million, the team drafted a point guard in the first round and with an already-crowded group it might have seemed unlikely he’d return. The Knicks inquired on the trade market and free agency, checking in on stars who might be available, but then signed him back for $4.86 million. What role he will have with Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., rookie Immanuel Quickley and combo guard Austin Rivers all competing for minutes with him he said was not his concern.
"From the beginning we always had intentions of me coming back, so I wasn’t really worried, I guess," Payton said. "That ain’t my job [to worry about his role or whom the Knicks chased]. My job is to work, work as hard as I possibly can and live with the results. It’s not for me to pick who starts. It’s not for me to care about what other people are saying, things like that. I control what I can control and that’s the amount of work I put in every offseason and every day. So how I handle it, I don’t even pay attention to it, to be honest."
Alec Burks was a rookie when the NBA went through a lockout in the 2011-12 season, trying to find his way while he had no idea when he’d be able to get in uniform with the Utah Jazz. But he believes that was still far different than what players, and rookies in particular, are facing now with COVID-19 restricting the ability to spend time on the court together and a short camp with no summer league to get ready.
"The lockout was challenging because I was a rookie, didn’t have no experience," Burks said. "I just leaned on vets, the vets that we had in Utah. They were helping me prepare for the season. The difference this year is [in 2011] you could be play pickup, you could be around people, you could see your teammates differently without bringing the virus back or being exposed to the virus. I think this year is just different because the virus has taken over the way people do normal life. It’s hard to get ready for the season because you don’t want to be exposed. That’s the challenge."