Knicks putting their young guards up
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The changing of the guard is coming for the Knicks.
Jeff Hornacek wouldn’t announce who would be starting at point guard, but it won’t be veteran Jarrett Jack.
Emmanuel Mudiay was running the point with the first team during the portion of Tuesday’s practice that the media was allowed to see. It’s possible he could start Thursday night in Orlando when the Knicks resume their schedule now that the All-Star break is over.
“You could read into that,” Hornacek said. “But we still have practice tomorrow.”
The way Hornacek spoke it sounds as if he could change the starters game-to-game. But he made it abundantly clear that over the final 23 games, the young point guards, 19-year-old rookie Frank Ntilikina, Mudiay, 21 and Trey Burke, 25, would be playing much more than they have.
With the playoffs unlikely for the fifth straight year, the youth movement is in full effect so the guards can develop and the Knicks can evaluate them.
“We want to try to get Trey and Emmanuel and Frank out there,” Hornacek said. “Obviously with trying to get them minutes it’s probably going to be two of those guys together. Today at practice we had Frank and Trey on the same team. They were playing well off each other.”
Jack, 34, started the past 56 games after replacing Ramon Sessions after three games. Sessions was waived to make room for Burke.
The Knicks won six of their first seven games with Jack in the starting lineup and 16 of 26. But the Knicks (23-36) began losing — they’ve dropped 23 of their last 30 — and needed to make a change.
Losing Kristaps Porzingis for the season with a torn ACL pushed the Knicks to start building for the future, and they decided it would start after the break.
“Just giving the young guys more chances,” Hornacek said. “We might win with those guys. We’ll throw them out there. They’ll take some lumps probably at times but they’ve got to get through that. They’ve got to battle through and learn. Try to build up the consistency.”
The Knicks took Ntilikina with the eighth pick in last June’s draft. His defense is ahead of his offense.
The French guard is averaging 5.2 points, while shooting 35.3 percent from the field, and 3.2 assists over 20.1 minutes. Earlier in the season he was closing games, but Hornacek went away from that.
Mudiay, acquired at the Feb. 8 trade deadline from Denver, was a starter as a rookie and for part of his second season with the Nuggets. But Mudiay played just 17.9 minutes per game with the Nuggets this season.
The third-year guard is averaging 9.7 points and 5.0 assists over 23 minutes in three games as a Knick. Mudiay was doing sprints after practice to get his conditioning up since he will be playing more.
“It’s a chance for me to get that groove back,” Mudiay said. “I don’t care if I’m out there 35 or 20 minutes, just go out there and play as hard as I can.”
Burke also started as a rookie in Utah in 2013-14, but he’s mostly come off the bench since then. He was playing for the Knicks G-League team when they signed him in January. Burke had back-to-back 18-point games last month. But he totaled just 12 minutes in the three games after Mudiay was acquired.
“We have some young guys that are hungry and know they’re going to get some more minutes,” Hornacek said. “If they approach these games like they did practice today, we’ll be OK.”
Notes & quotes: The Knicks will sign 6-7 athletic forward Troy Williams to a 10-day contact, his agent Stephen Pina said. It’s expected to happen Wednesday. Williams averaged 1.3 points in four games with the Rockets this season. Houston waived him last week to open a roster spot to sign Joe Johnson. The Knicks are looking for young, athletic players and Williams certainly fits that description. He won the D-League Slam Dunk Contest last year . . . Michael Beasley didn’t practice because of right ear irritation.