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Knicks Kick Off Stretch Run Against Orlando

In a matchup between two tanking squads, the Knicks will be in Orlando on Thursday night to take on Evan Fournier and the Magic.

Coming off of an extended period of rest from All-Star weekend festivities in which only a single Knick was able to participate (love you sweet baby Frankie), the Knicks (23-36) head down to sunny Orlando to take on the hapless Magic (18-39) in a race to the bottom of the standings.

First things first: watch some of Frank Ntilikina’s play from the Rising Stars game.

He did a little bit of everything in a classic Ntilikina game and finished with six points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals in 18 minutes of action.

Now let’s get into what to watch for in the night’s marquee tanking matchup.


Hornacek’s new-look rotation starting five

With Porzingis sidelined for the rest of this season, the Knicks organization is best suited looking to the future and prioritizing the development of their young players. While Jeff Hornacek has resisted the youth movement through most of the season, he indicated over the All-Star break that changes may be coming to the Knicks rotation:

Ian Begley reported that Mudiay was getting reps in practice the other day with the starting unit, and that all indicators point towards him starting in Orlando. With Mudiay likely starting, how will Hornacek stagger his rotations in using Ntilikina, Trey Burke, and Damyean Dotson? Will Jarrett Jack see the floor at all? What will happen to Courtney Lee’s minutes?

Tonight’s lineups could be telling for the way Hornacek plans to approach his rotations for the remainder of the season.

Hardaway Jr. still looking for consistency

Hardaway Jr. broke out of a major shooting slump with a big 32-point first half in the Knicks’ last game before the All-Star break. He couldn’t maintain that hot shooting even into the second half of that game, in which he scored just five points in route to an enormous 27-point blown lead.

With Hornacek leaning towards his young guys going forward and the Knicks having a plethora of young guards, it seems that Hardaway will likely play the remainder of the season at the 3-spot. The Knicks are particularly thin with just Lance Thomas and newly signed Troy Williams projecting as the only pure 3’s on the roster.

As outlined here, getting Timmy more time at small forward will give him an opportunity to learn how to cut better and develop some rapport with the Knicks young guards. Hopefully, this will lead to some more consistency through the rest of the season and his 4-year deal.

Other things to watch for:
  • The Knicks signed 6’7″ swingman Troy Williams to a 10-day contract as part of their movement towards youth and athleticism. He was waived by the Rockets this season and is a phenomenal athlete and dunker. Though he projects as a poor man’s Wesley Johnson with hops for now, let’s see if he can screw his head on right with some playing time in New York. Will Hornacek give him any in Orlando?

  • The Magic will have Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon back against the Knicks. Vucevic has historically been a Knick-killer, most recently dropping 34 points on the ‘Bockers in a December win. Will Kanter have the footspeed to match up with Vucevic outside? Will O’Quinn have the strength to match up with him inside? It will be interesting to see how Hornacek chooses to play the Vuc.
  • The Joakim Noah situation has gotten… weird. It seems he won’t be with the team for the remainder of the season, as Hornacek commented over the break that the team has moved on from the big man and that he has moved on from them. It was also reported that he got into an altercation with Hornacek, though the details are still murky. He still has two years left after this season on (yes, I’m willing to say it) the worst contract in the history of the NBA. It remains to be seen whether the Knicks will be able to buy him out, whether they will stretch him, or just wait it out. Regardless, this is a classic case of Knicks (mis)management.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 P.M. EST.

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