ORLANDO — The Knicks were without Dennis Smith Jr. and Reggie Bullock on Wednesday as both left the team to be with their families after the sudden passing of family members. Smith lost his stepmother on Sunday and Bullock’s sister, Kiosha Moore, was fatally shot in Baltimore on Monday.
Moore, 22, is the second sibling that Bullock has lost in recent years. His sister, Mia Henderson, was lost in a stabbing in 2014.
“I talk to all these guys. I’ve lived it,” said Knicks coach David Fizdale, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles. “I’ve lost some really important people in my life to it. I can understand what he’s going through. It is a very tough, difficult thing when it’s so senseless. That’s why it’s very important for all of us, our organization, our families, to really take care of this guy.
“[I make] a lot of phone calls, text messages. Obviously once we get the arrangements, we’ll have somebody as a representative there and we’ll make sure we’re sending well wishes, and flowers and all of that stuff to him. Anything we could do that could possibly pick up his spirit.”
Bullock has yet to suit up for the Knicks as he recovers from a spinal surgery procedure he underwent in the summer.
“He’s coming along great,” Fizdale said. “His body is really healing up. He’s shooting. He’s starting to do a little bit more here and there. Whenever he gets back, he’ll be another welcome shooter on our team. Right now for us, the biggest thing is we just want to take care of him and his family. This is the second time this has happened to his family, he’s lost a sister to this stuff. Hopefully he can come back and feel love from everybody.”
RJ Barrett grew up in Canada and traveled overseas with his father, who played professional basketball in various countries. But when he needed to up the level of competition in high school, he relocated to Montverde Academy, just a few miles from the Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy where the Knicks conducted morning shootaround Wednesday.
“We had games here all the time,” Barrett said. “It was fun. It was good. A real learning curve for me, especially being so young and coming here. It was good though. I played with a lot of great players.”
Barrett spent three years at Montverde, where he was named the National High School Player of the Year when he led the team to an unbeaten season as a senior.
“It feels like home,” he said. I’ve got a lot of people coming to the game so it should be a good one.”