Knicks open Fizdale era at home against Hawks
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NEW YORK -- The David Fizdale era kicks off for the New York Knicks on Wednesday night as they open their season with a visit from the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
Of course, with the Knicks there is always drama, and that is no different as they set to open their season.
First, there was the jettisoning of longtime NBA vet Joakim Noah over the weekend.
Then, on Monday, the team declined to sign star forward Kristaps Porzingis to a rookie extension prior to the deadline. He remains sidelined as he rehabs a torn ACL, leaving his contract negotiations to the summer.
And on Tuesday, even more cacophony, as reporters learned that promising rookie forward Kevin Knox would not be in the starting lineup on Wednesday as projected. The Knicks will instead go with second-year defensive lockdown specialist Frank Ntilikina.
So much for an uneventful start to the season.
Knox, the No. 7 pick in the draft out of Kentucky, had started all five preseason games for New York, but struggled in the final three. He shot just 32 percent during preseason action, but Fizdale insisted as late as Friday that he would be in the starting lineup.
Instead, Trey Burke will start at the point, Ntilikina at the two and Tim Hardaway Jr. at small forward.
"Coach wants me to be more aggressive with that second lineup," Knox said, "and be a leader with that second lineup and go from there. I'm not surprised at all. He wants to switch up lineups, and we have so much talent on this team."
Added Ntilikina: "I'm really, really happy to be a starter, but it's not the end of the day. What we want to be is successful with this team. Coach has that confidence in me and Trey, and we'll do the best we can do in those few minutes and try to be more competitive."
Fizdale did not mince words with reporters on Tuesday, saying that Knox was "playing pretty crappy, so his confidence was already shook up. So sometimes a little tweak, just taking him out of the lineup for a minute might give him a chance to digest it, take a breath."
Atlanta's first-round pick, meanwhile, is having no such early season uncertainty.
Trae Young, the No. 5 pick in the draft out of Oklahoma after a sensational freshman year, is the Hawks' starting point guard and figures to be an integral part of the offense.
"I've always dreamed of playing in Madison Square," Young told the New York Daily News. "I was able to play in the Staples Center when I was in college, but I've never been able to be in Madison Square. I'm looking forward to playing in it. I know it's going to be a crazy environment. They said that sometimes during timeouts there are light shows. They said it's crazy. I'm looking forward to it."
The Hawks also hope to get some added scoring punch from third-year small forward Taurean Prince, the No. 12 pick in the 2016 draft by Utah. Prince averaged 14.1 points per game last year, up from 5.7 as a rookie.
The Knicks' best scorer, Porzingis, is expected to be out until at least December, but he has impressed his new coach with his basketball IQ.
"He's been awesome to have in the gym," Fizdale told reporters Monday. "It's like having another coach. The film sessions, he speaks up as much as any coach on our staff, and what he says is exactly what we need said."
Updated October 16, 2018