Sometimes players miss shots and sometimes journalists do, too. So when a few of us were speaking with Allonzo Trier after he led the Knicks with 22 points Thursday night, he spoke about playing with aggressiveness on offense that he had lost for a stretch. And as I tried to follow up on it, I used the word “confidence” rather than “aggressiveness.”
Trier immediately responded, “I don’t lack confidence.”
That statement has been true since he arrived with the Knicks as an undrafted free agent last summer. Though his play may be filled with inconsistency, Trier — who has scored at least 18 points in four of his last six games — has never lacked confidence.
Perhaps it’s a residual effect of having been in the spotlight since he was a pre-teen — the subject of a New York Times Magazine story as he made his way through the AAU circuit as a national sensation. Even when teams passed on him in the draft after three seasons at Arizona, it never caused his confidence in his own ability to waver.
He pinned the gap in his performance on trying to find his way into a role. Knicks coach David Fizdale sought to have Trier become more of a complete guard, working to get his teammates involved, and Trier finally returned to what got him here — aggressiveness.
Definitely not confidence, but aggressiveness.
“I don’t think [the game] slowed down,” Trier said. “I think it slowed down earlier, but then I got in a stretch where we were talking and he was really asking me to kind of, not change how I’m playing but focus on different areas of my game, and it was more about trying to find guys and I don’t want to say be unselfish but look to make the right reads and be aware of passes, and I kind of turned down my aggressiveness.
“And what I do best is score the ball, and I was kind of thinking pass first. And it kind of took away from how I was playing. I just had to be able to find a balance and get back to being who I am and what I do best, really, honestly. I’ve just got to come out and be aggressive, honestly, be who I am and not try to change who I am as a basketball player. Do what I do best.”
That is a large part of the player development process that the Knicks are preaching. Some of it must fall on the player himself, not just to work on refining the physical aspects of his skill set but also to find what works and what doesn’t.
Some of that may be adjusting to the NBA and countering the adjustments that opposing teams already have made.
“It’s my first year playing here and I’m trying to figure that out on the go,” Trier said. “So that’s a part of my growth, going through stretches where I may not be playing as well or I may not be putting up the same numbers. It’s honestly about me just continuing to learn the game and putting it all together. So each game I’m going to learn new things and get better, whether I score a lot of points or I miss a lot of shots or anything like that, you know? It’s about just continuing to build and putting it together.”
One thing that Trier feels as strongly about as his confidence? The rookie wall, or the lack of one.
Some of his teammates say playing the arduous NBA schedule is a learned skill, but Trier doesn’t believe his struggles have been caused by any kind of rookie wall.
“No, that’s like a fairy tale,” he said. “That’s like a myth to me.
I didn’t hit a rookie wall. I just went through a place where I was going through a part of learning the game and trying to put it all together in my first season. The best way to go through and learn is going through the experience, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
The Knicks moved quickly after the trade deadline to waive Enes Kanter and Wes Matthews, allowing them to sign with playoff-bound teams while the Knicks continued on their path to the draft lottery. After coming to New York along with Matthews in the trade with Dallas, however, DeAndre Jordan is still a Knick.
It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, given that Jordan will be a free agent at season’s end and could help a contender now. He’s second in the NBA in rebounding and field-goal percentage. But he has been content to play out the season in New York, serving as a mentor to Mitchell Robinson and the rest of the young Knicks.
“I don’t know if it was me convincing him,” David Fizdale said. “I think Scott Perry and Steve [Mills] had a lot to do with that. I think he sees the situation here as a good situation for him for this year, with him having a real purpose in helping this group, and possibly a future.”