New York Knicks: Elfrid Payton injury update leaves door open for others

The New York Knicks will not have Elfrid Payton for at least 10 more days, per the team.

Since Oct. 28, the New York Knicks have missed Elfrid Payton due to a strained hamstring. He appeared in the first four games before that and started three of them for averages of 8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Well, as of Tuesday, the Knicks will remain without one of their numerous offseason acquisitions for another stretch. Per the team, Payton is out for another 10 days as his hamstring “is not fully healed.” He will be re-evaluated afterward.

That timespan will put the veteran point guard out until at least Nov. 29, crossing the month-long threshold.

Injuries have been the norm for Payton over the past few seasons. He missed 19 games in 2017-18 with the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns, and the 2018-19 campaign featured 40 absences with the New Orleans Pelicans.

What this means

The situation will not change much for the Knicks, at least with their rotation construction of the past three weeks. Frank Ntilikina should keep the starting point guard spot until further notice, continuing to show his basketball IQ and defensive prowess along the way.

This also impacts Dennis Smith Jr., who recently returned to action due to a death in the family. His role should remain as the backup point guard until further notice.

Both players have the chance to capitalize on their temporarily secured roles. Anything else will make Fizdale’s decision simpler when the time comes.

After them, it does not mean much for the rest of the guard rotation, but those playing sporadically—Allonzo Trier and Wayne Ellington—will not have another player in the rotation to overcome for another 10 days.

Whenever Payton returns

The longer Payton remains out, the smaller the chance he has to regain his starting role. Sure, it hinges on Ntilikina’s play, but the third-year guard has the familiarity with Fizdale and has shown growth since joining the lineup.

The Knicks still have an $8 million salary to pay the ex-Pelican, which is obviously not cheap, but they can get out of this contract after the season ends. Like Ellington, it should not force him into the rotation if the on-court play does not warrant it, too.

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Long-term injuries have returned for Payton, and that threat was always a red flag when the New York Knicks signed him in July. Perhaps he plays well upon return, but that’s too early to project right now.

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