New York Knicks: Veteran-laden lineup brings mixed results and questions

New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks trotted out another starting lineup in Tuesday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Development remains the narrative for the New York Knicks in 2018-19. Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier and Frank Ntilikina headline this, but, if head coach David Fizdale’s lineup against the Portland Trail Blazers showed anything, it was not the youth.

In the latest lineup change, Fizdale inserted Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter. It’s amazing to call it the “veterans” when each player is 26-years-old or younger, but it was a group with at least three years of experience.

Most of that group may not be in New York’s future, and it’s still about development. Fizdale reasoned such for replacing Mitchell Robinson with Kanter to Marc Berman of The New York Post:

"“I just see that when I play [Robinson] as a starter he gets foul trouble early, two quick fouls,” Fizdale said. “I have to take him out then. If he gets his third, I’ll have to sit him out the whole half four minutes into the game. That’s not going to help him grow. Enes will get more respect in that regard. He’s wily on how to stay out of foul trouble.”"

How did it result for the Knicks in their 118-114 loss? Where do these players stand?

  • Emmanuel Mudiay: It marked another solid game for Mudiay, with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting. His defense is a question mark, but he’s playing well enough to remain a starter as one of New York’s early surprises.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr: The only player to start each game when healthy, Hardaway found 30 points for the third straight game. There’s little doubt of his standing.
  • Mario Hezonja: Hezonja missed the previous two games. Surprisingly, the follow-up resulted in a start, which saw him score two points on 1-for-5 shooting in 17 minutes. It would not surprise to see him as a reserve for Wednesday or Friday’s game, at the latest.
  • Noah Vonleh: Vonleh returned to the starting lineup after two games away and delivered 14 points and 14 rebounds. He should have holding power, but it’s unknown when Fizdale will turn to Knox again to start.
  • Enes Kanter: This was Kanter’s first start since the fifth game. He had seven points, five rebounds and six assists in 26 minutes. This return to the lineup probably won’t last forever, and the man himself knows it, as he also told Berman, “I’ll probably get back to the second unit later [in the season].”

Some of these players might not start in Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics, but on a short turnaround, will Fizdale wait to make a change until Friday?

Mixing and matching will continue, either way, until Fizdale settles on a lineup. He hasn’t reverted to a previously-used lineup, so the next iteration might be new, again.

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Who will the New York Knicks start? Find out at 7:30 p.m. ET from the TD Garden in Boston, MA. The team will return after the holiday against the New Orleans Pelicans.