New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee discusses when he thinks he could come back from injury.
Chris Iseman, Staff Writer, @chrisiseman
NEW YORK — As David Fizdale shuffled his lineups and evaluated combinations, the Knicks coach targeted the 25th game of the season.
By that point, Fizdale had said, he would ideally like to settle on a starting five so players could settle into their roles and establish a rhythm.
But he continued to say that nothing would be set in stone.
So as Fizdale prepared to coach Game 25 Monday night, he reiterated that point.
“Don’t hold me to it,” Fizdale said before the Knicks’ 110-107 loss to the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks reached the 25-game mark, but the evaluation process will continue.
For the last eight games, Fizdale has gone with a starting five of Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 20 points Monday, Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter. It’s the sixth starting lineup he’s put together this season.
It almost certainly won’t be the last.
Fizdale said before Monday’s game that he’s considered slotting Kevin Knox back into the starting five, but decided not to yet because he wants him to continue to get comfortable before making that change.
Knox scored eight points on 3-of-11 shooting against the Wizards, including 0-of-3 from the perimeter.
“I don’t like to put a cap on anything,” Fizdale said. “We have too many guys, too many young guys. I’ve got guys sitting right there on the fringe that I know are chomping at the bit to get back in there. So I’m not going to clip the competitiveness and have those guys feeling like they can’t get back in the rotation because that’s not the facts. They can.”
One of those young guys is Frank Ntilikina, who hasn’t played at all the last two games.
The eighth overall pick in 2017, Ntilikina has struggled offensively in his second season, but he’s an elite defender.
Recently, that hasn’t been enough to keep him in the rotation.
On Monday, Fizdale brought Courtney Lee off the bench first to give him his first minutes of the season.
Lee, who missed the first 24 games because of neck and back spasms, played 15 minutes and had seven points.
He missed an open layup late in the fourth quarter because he said his legs were “burning” so he didn’t want to attempt a dunk, so instead he went for a layup but laid it off the backboard too hard.
“Look, [Ntilikina’s] right there in the holster for me,” Fizdale said. “I’m always thinking about him or whoever the next guy can be that can help us. It just worked out the way it did.”
Fizdale has been adamant that no player is ever in his “doghouse.” He’s pointed to Damyean Dotson as an example.
Dotson was on the bench for four straight games before Fizdale put him back into the rotation. Dotson responded by averaging 18 points over three games coming into Monday.
The second-year wing scored 17 points on Monday night.
Fizdale said he understands that it’s important to some players that they start, even if they’re on the court in crucial late-game situations when they don’t. He said he considers all of that when making decisions.
But that isn’t the deciding factor.
“I spend time thinking about what each individual’s going through, where they are, how they feel about the situation they’re in, how do I get them to a place where they feel better about where they’re at and give them a pathway to grow,” Fizdale said. “But my No. 1 priority is trying to get the team to a place where everyone, or the bulk of the group, feels like they can play in a good way.”
Trey Burke hopeful for quick recovery
The Knicks are going to be without Trey Burke for the time being as he recovers from the sprained right knee he suffered in Saturday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Burke said he suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his medial collateral ligament when he went for a layup and Thon Maker stepped on his foot while trying to block his shot. Burke’s knee buckled.
The guard said his knee was still very sore when he woke up on Sunday, but he felt much better Monday.
Burke isn’t sure exactly when he’ll be back, and for now will take it day by day. Still, he doesn’t expect it will be very long.