The Knicks are still figuring out their backcourt rotation, what with starting point guard Jose Calderon injured, J.R. Smith still trying to figure out the inner workings of the triangle and second-year shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. barely getting any time against the Cavaliers on Thursday night.
For now, Shane Larkin and Iman Shumpert are the starters. In the Knicks' 96-93 victory over the Hornets Sunday night at the Garden, they matched up against Charlotte's New York-bred backcourt of Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson, who went to Brooklyn's Lincoln High School, was Charlotte's big free-agent signing this past offseason. He jumped from Indiana for three years and $27 million.
It has not been smooth sailing for Stephenson. He didn't play in the fourth quarter of Charlotte's 71-69 loss to Memphis on Saturday night. But coach Steve Clifford said he is being patient with the 24-year-old.
"I think that the one misnomer is this: He's  years old and developing into a good player," Clifford said. "You know, we got Al Jefferson last year, and Al had been 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] for 10 years. You knew what you were going to get. Lance averaged 13 a game [for Indiana] last year . . . He's not close to being in rhythm with his game. He missed a lot of time in preseason. We had a good talk today, he knows where he's at, and I think we have to be patient and let him progress at a speed that makes sense for all of us."
Stephenson had 14 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three steals against the Knicks. Walker scored 16 points.
Both Hornets came alive in the third quarter as Charlotte took its first lead of the game and went into the fourth ahead 80-79. Stephenson had 12 points in the third quarter and Walker added seven.
Walker, who starred at Rice High School in the Bronx and UConn, is no stranger to the Garden. Before the game, Knicks coach Derek Fisher said he expected Walker and Stephenson to be pumped to play in their hometown.
"They're both attack players," Fisher said. "Stephenson's turned into a really good all-around player in this league. Not just looking for his own opportunities. He's facilitating others. They're both local guys and I'm sure that they are excited to be back at the Garden tonight."
For the Knicks, Shumpert finished with 15 points. He got off to a hot start with 11 first-half points but played only 9:26 in the half because of foul trouble. Larkin, who finished with nine points and five assists, had seven points and four assists in the first half as the Knicks took a 52-50 lead into intermission.