Earlier in the season, even before the Knicks shed most of their talent in salary slot-clearing deals, coach David Fizdale described Noah Vonleh as the team’s most complete player.
But since the Knicks’ loss at Detroit on Feb. 8, when he was pulled after playing three scoreless minutes, Vonleh has come off the bench in four of the last five games and seen his minutes drastically cut.
The Knicks have put Luke Kornet in a starting role alongside recently acquired DeAndre Jordan. In the previous five games entering Friday night, Vonleh averaged only 16 minutes and four points. Before that point, he had averaged 26.5 minutes, 8.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He played 25 minutes Friday night and had eight points and five rebounds in the Knicks' 115-104 loss to the Timberwolves.
“I want him to keep working to get better, get back to giving us those consistent minutes,” Fizdale said. “They’ve all gone through it. This is the first time Noah’s ever been asked to do so much. He hit his own wall a little there. In Atlanta [in the last game], he helped us win that game. He’s still going to play major minutes for us. Luke has been giving us a real boost in that starting unit just from the standpoint of spacing and length at the rim. So I think he’s going to be fine. It’s a matter of getting back to not overthinking the game, keeping it simple.”
Though Vonleh hardly is inexperienced, he never came close to averaging the sort of minutes he has been asked to play this season.
Said Fizdale, “He hasn’t played minutes and been required to do so many different things: guard the best player every night, switch on to multiple people, be asked to shoot the three, post the ball and do it in 30-plus minutes a night. I think that was all new for him. He handled it great. I just think he had a moment where he wasn’t playing good basketball. Like I’ve done with all the guys, I’ve tried to be fair, give others a look and see if it works.”
Karl-Anthony Towns was held out of action in the NBA’s concussion protocol after being involved in a car accident in Minnesota on Thursday night. Towns was cleared by the team doctor to fly to New York but then forced to sit out. It put an end to a streak of 303 consecutive games for Towns.
‘I just like to have him out there because he’s a pretty good player,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “The streak, that is something that I think everybody should definitely take note of with Karl’s durability and his toughness and how he approaches the game.”