The Knicks have so many issues, but Jeff Hornacek doesn’t think Emmanuel Mudiay is one of them — at least not in their last game.
Since recording a double-double in his Knicks debut, Mudiay has ranged between inconsistent and disappointing. But Hornacek said he plans to continue to start Mudiay at point guard.
“There you go with, ‘Let’s change starting lineups’ and ‘Let’s do whatever,’ ” Hornacek said after Miami crushed the Knicks, 119-98, on Wednesday night. “We may do that going forward, I don’t know. A game like this isn’t on Emmanuel.”
The Knicks’ reserves were a big culprit in the loss, or as Hornacek said, “Their bench team destroyed us.” The Heat’s subs outscored the Knicks, 62-28. Trey Burke was the only Knick to play well off the bench, finishing with 16 points and seven assists. Mudiay had eight and four.
Since returning from the All-Star break, the Knicks have been playing their three young point guards the bulk of the minutes at both backcourt positions. Of Mudiay, Burke and Frank Ntilikina, Burke is the only one who has stood out consistently. It’s led to questions for Hornacek about why Burke isn’t starting instead of Mudiay.
It could be that the Knicks know what they have in Burke from seeing him in training camp, their G League team, and now. Mudiay has played just 16 games with the Knicks, the last 13 as a starter.
“We’re not just going to have 10, 12 games and make a judgment call on a guy,” Hornacek said. “We’ve seen the other guys. The other guys are coming off the bench. Trey continues to prove that he’s a guy that can really give us something. We’re trying to see if [Mudiay] can get used to our guys and we just go that way.”
The Knicks, who face Minnesota on Friday, acquired Mudiay from Denver in a three-team deal right before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The third-year guard had 14 points and 10 assists in his debut at Indiana. Mudiay hasn’t had more than seven assists since that game.
In his 13 starts, Mudiay has averaged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists over 25.2 minutes. He’s shooting 36.3 percent from the field, 23.3 percent on three-pointers, and his defense leaves much to be desired. Mudiay is a minus-100 in those games, and the Knicks are 3-10.
Over that same stretch, Burke is averaging 14 points on 50-percent shooting, 4.2 assists and provided a needed spark off the bench.
When asked what one area he thinks he needs to improve upon, Mudiay responded, “Just play better in general. Everything, really, to be honest with you.”
Players go through adjustments when they get traded, especially a point guard who has to figure out everyone’s tendencies. The chemistry and cohesion are definitely lacking. Mudiay has made a number of errant or difficult-to-catch passes that sometimes are his fault and other times his teammate isn’t in the right spot.
This is Mudiay’s audition to prove he can start for the Knicks going forward. He’s under contract for another year. But it wouldn’t be surprising if the Knicks drafted or acquired a point guard or tried to move Mudiay this summer.
“It’s just going to come with time,” Mudiay said. “I just got to keep learning the system, learning all that. We just got to get better as a team. I think we get too stagnant. When we get too stagnant we make ourselves take tough shots. That’s on me and that’s on everybody.”
Burke, meanwhile, only has a partial guarantee for next season. But he seems to be putting himself in a good position to earn a spot next season. Burke said he’d rather be a starter, but he’s comfortable coming off the bench too.
“I try to let my play speak for itself,” Burke said. “I don’t want it to seem like it’s about me. That’s why I really don’t speak on it much. I like both. But the desire is to start. As a point guard growing up, you always dreamed of running a franchise.”
The Knicks are still looking for someone to do that.