For one night at least, the Knicks discovered a solution to a familiar problem — finding a point guard who produces at anything near the level of floor generals who stock the rosters of almost every other NBA team.
Elfrid Payton has been the starter for all three games, and in the two losses to begin the season, he did not do anything to show that the decision to waive him was incorrect — and little to show why the Knicks made the right decision in subsequently bringing him back, even at a lower price. But in the 130-110 win over Milwaukee on Sunday night at the Garden, Payton had his best scoring performance as a Knick with 27 points in 29 minutes. He shot 12-for-16 from the field and had seven assists.
Payton wasn’t the only issue in the first two games. Immanuel Quickley got the first assignment as the backup point guard in the opener but suffered a left hip injury after 12 minutes and was sidelined for the next two games. Dennis Smith Jr. has gotten time at the spot, but he was scratched Sunday night with a contused left quadriceps.
Alec Burks, not a true point guard, has been handed the ball for stretches in an effort to get more shooting on the floor. Frank Ntilikina was not inserted in either of the first two games until the Knicks were down double-digits in the fourth quarter. But with the team shorthanded, Ntilikina (12 points in 19 minutes) got his first extended minutes of the season and hit all four of his three-point attempts.
The Knicks passed on a long list of point guards with their lottery pick, choosing forward Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick before selecting combo guard Quickley at No. 25.
"I think going into camp we said we needed everyone," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And then when you start playing games, you have to settle on a rotation. That doesn’t mean the guys who aren’t in the rotation at that particular point won’t get into the rotation. You have to make those decisions and then everyone has to be ready when they’re called upon.
"And so over the course of the season, everyone is going to have an opportunity to play. And we expect them to perform when they get in there. And so it’s all about how you can help the team, make the team better, help us win."