GREENBURGH, N.Y. — As the Knicks embark on the final week of preseason with two more exhibition games on the schedule, they have seen flashes of potential from their rookies and leadership from their veterans. But what they have not found is a clear-cut leader in the battle for the starting point guard spot.
Trey Burke started the first two games and is the most dangerous scorer of the trio. Emmanuel Mudiay started Friday against the Pelicans, and while he got the offense moving, he has shot only 3-for-18. Frank Ntilikina, the 2017 lottery pick, is the best defender of the trio and the most versatile.
But is there a star — or even a starter — among the bunch to contend in a league in which point guards dominate the game?
“What ends up coming out of it is what fits the best,” coach David Fizdale said. “All these guys are competing and nobody is flying out in front. Ultimately, the final decider may be what combinations work the best.
“To be honest with you, there’s not going to be anybody playing much more than 28 minutes a game anyway. Guys are going to get a lot of minutes whether they’re starting or coming off the bench. The pace I’m playing at, if you can play over 30 minutes comfortably, you’re probably not playing very hard. They understand that. My big deal to them is efficiency and time you’re using and not being inefficient. They know that whoever plays is going to get their shot to do what they do.”
The Knicks have the greatest stake in figuring out what Ntilikina can be, because he’s the only one of the three signed beyond this season. But what Fizdale seems to value most in the second-year guard is that he can defend at three positions.
“What do you call him?” Fizdale said. “You can play him as a two or a three, and now you’ve got three point guards in your rotation. That’s where Frank really gives me a lot of flexibility from what he brings to the table. That’s why I don’t want to label him too much. We know Trey Burke is a point guard. Mudiay is a combo. He can do both. Frank can do both. Instead of labeling them as this is what you’re going to be and putting them in a box, it gives me more flexibility to just call them guards and be able to play them next to each other.”
The deciding factor may be who is on the floor against the Knicks or even who is on the floor for them — finding a point guard who works best in concert, proving chemistry with that group. While Ntilikina has not started, he did start the third quarter against Washington with a three-guard lineup on the floor, and the Knicks raced to a 14-0 run to turn the game around.
“I think it’s the same way for all three of us,” Burke said. “There’s different packages or groups of guys, I should say, that I think we work best with. It’s still early, still preseason. There’s still things we haven’t figured out yet that we’re still trying to figure out on the run. But this is a good time for us to analyze what guys are best with what groups. I think that’s what Coach is doing.”
Knicks add Coby. The Knicks signed forward Jeff Coby, who played four seasons at Columbia and spent last season playing professionally overseas.