While MVP chants for Julius Randle rain down at Madison Square Garden — and there have been more than a few for RJ Barrett, too, of late — Elfrid Payton’s name usually is raised only in pleas for Tom Thibodeau to remove him from the lineup and replace him with Immanuel Quickley, Derrick Rose or even little-used Frank Ntilikina.
But with Barrett enduring an empty offensive night Monday, Payton picked up the slack, scoring 20 points to complement Randle’s 34.
If Payton is unappreciated by much of the fan base, Thibodeau remains an ardent supporter.
"A lot of pressure on the rim," he said of Payton’s play. "Downhill, in the paint, ball pressure, making tough plays. He gives us a physicality, allows us to do more switching than we normally would because of the size and toughness that he has. He’s an important part of this team."
It has been an adjustment for the 6-3 Payton, who plays point guard in title only. Randle serves as the primary ballhandler and Payton plays almost like a power forward, getting almost all of his points near the rim — on drives, following up misses and even taking feeds near the rim from the team’s big men.
"Definitely different," he said. "I think I’ve been doing a good job adjusting. We’ve been playing well, doing well this season. Just rolling with it."
Pelle in, Henson still out
John Henson signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks but has yet to suit up after suffering a calf injury in his first workout with the team. The last day of the deal is Wednesday, when the Knicks are in New Orleans. The team announced that Norvel Pelle, who signed with the Knicks two days before Henson, has been signed to a second 10-day contract.