The New York Knicks could be without two starters on Monday, but that’s nothing compared to what the Washington Wizards are facing.
The 82-game NBA schedule is an absolute grind and every team is bound to have a few bumps and bruises along the way. The New York Knicks are experiencing some of that right now, but the Washington Wizards are dealing with bumps and bruises to the nth degree.
Marcus Morris Sr. (sore left Achilles) and Taj Gibson (illness) are both out for the Knicks. That means interim head coach Mike Miller will be without two of his starters in a winnable game. Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson will start in lieu of the veterans. Robinson is already playing the lion’s share of the minutes at center so this won’t be a drastic change to Miller’s rotations.
Inserting Frank Ntilikina back into the starting lineup to play the two-guard alongside Elfrid Payton would be another avenue Miller could explore should the Knicks need to jumble their starting rotation at another point in the future. This would give Dennis Smith Jr. consistent minutes as the backup point guard and ensure that all three guards are seeing time on the floor.
It sounds like matchups will dictate the rotations on Monday against the shorthanded Wizards. Going forward, that may change, but Miller is giving no indication that the team is looking to make a habit of playing that backcourt iteration.
“It’s possible. It’s happened before this year certainly and it’s just what the game is going to call for,” Miller said pregame. “This game tonight, who knows? We’re going to be searching for a matchup with Bradley Beal throughout the game so I’m not sure what that will dictate with the lineups at this point.”
As Miller alluded to, all eyes are going to be on Bradley Beal. The two-time All-Star is going to be leading a severely shorthanded team with eight players out for various reasons. Most are missing time with injuries while Isaiah Thomas is serving a two-game suspension for going into the stands to confront a fan in Philadelphia.
In fact, the Wizards are hurting for bodies so much that they signed Gary Payton II from the G League to try and add some depth to the lineup. According to Washington head coach Scott Brooks, he’ll play despite having little preparation time.
Payton only has 32 games of NBA experience, three of which came with Washington last season while the son of the Hall of Fame point guard was on a 10-day contract.
“We can look at I think it’s eight or nine of our top 11 going into the season are not playing or not playing for a long time,” Brooks said pregame. “It’s tough, but it also gives all of us, including myself, a chance to be creative and show that grit that you need to have success in this league.”
Brooks finished his postgame comments by cracking a joke about getting fired the last time one of his teams had to deal with so many injuries. He also made sure to note that his contract was guaranteed the following year so it wasn’t all bad.