The Knicks roster is vastly different without their leading scorer Hardaway and point guard Trey Burke with injuries to Mudiay and Ntilikina. Kyrie Irving and the Celtics come to town on Friday night.
It has been a whirlwind 48 hours in New York City. Kristaps Porzingis, once considered the ultralight beam in the massive void of darkness, is gone. In addition to losing Porzingis, the Knicks also shipped out Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, and Courtney Lee. The only tangible return is Dennis Smith Jr. and roughly $70 million in cap space.
Tonight the team welcomes one of the guys for whom they cleared that space, Kyrie Irving. It will be a circus at Madison Square Garden. Kyrie will have to answer questions about the prospect of playing in New York. Fans could be rightfully pissed off that their franchise player is now gone.
There is still a basketball game to be played. Who will suit up for the Knicks is still a mystery. Things could get ugly, as the Knicks add another loss to their ledger in their quest for Zion.
Here is what else to watch out for.
There are a ton of open minutes waiting to be had. Who David Fizdale has at his disposal is unknown. Whoever does play should expect to see extended minutes in a game that figures to get ugly, swiftly.
Recent call-up Kadeem Allen has impressed on defense and could look to make a bigger imprint with Fizdale, perhaps taking on the assignment of corralling Irving. Mario Hezonja suddenly has an opportunity to become one of the team’s top scoring options, thanks to Hardaway Jr. and Burke’s departure. Enes Kanter should even see an increase in playing time—or kissing the floor—for the sheer fact there is no one left to play.
The rookie class of 2018 has been the silver lining in this season. Scott Perry’s picks have each had their moment in the sun, proving that when it comes to scouting prospects, Perry is pretty damn good. The next step for Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, and Mitchell Robinson is to grow up, possibly faster than anticipated.
As crazy as it sounds, the Fiz Kids are the leaders of the team right now. Knox will have to step up to fill Hardaway Jr.’s shoes as the top scoring option. Trier can assist Knox in that department as he takes on a bigger role. Robinson is now the rim protector of the future, with Porzingis no longer returning.
Spotlight: Allonzo Trier, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson
The last day and a half have been rough for Knicks fans. It is up to the 2018 rookie class, a big reason many fans bought into this new regime, to remind everyone—especially Kyrie Irving—that there is still young talent on this roster.
Knox was able to step in for Hardaway Jr. as the top scorer once before, but now he will have to do it for the rest of the season. Trier should also see a major uptick in minutes, and will be looked at to help Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. (once he arrives) to carry the offense.
Robinson now bears the tall task of being the defensive anchor. With Porzingis gone, he is the rim protector of the future—and a damn good one at that. He totaled four blocks last game, and has 19 blocks in his last seven games. The young guys will be relied upon now more than ever. Let’s see if they can deliver.
UPDATE: Smith Jr., Jordan, and Matthews won’t play on Friday night against the Celtics, per The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov:
No new Knicks tonight. https://t.co/pDGCXVzxrE— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 1, 2019