For the first time since Dec. 23, Dennis Smith Jr. will be available for the New York Knicks. Whether or not he plays is another story.
NEW YORK, NY—Dennis Smith Jr.‘s nightmare season takes a positive step forward on Wednesday. After missing the last 13 days with a strained oblique, the point guard will finally be available when the New York Knicks host the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s really going to be a feel for the game, just what we think we need going into it,” interim head coach Mike Miller said of his plan for Smith. “He’s ready and available so we’ll go into it that way.”
Miller made no mention of a minutes restriction or anything of the like, but even if Smith is 100% healthy and ready to go, it’s unlikely he’ll play major minutes. In terms of his conditioning, Miller thinks it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where he’s at.
“It’s hard to say just with the injury. He’s done a lot of individual stuff, obviously, with the training staff, getting his conditioning back up,” Miller said. “The difference is basketball condition is different than just being physically fit. I’m sure he’s going to work his way back into it, but he’s a high-level athlete, he’s feeling good now and ready to play. I’m sure he’ll be able to work his way back in quickly.”
Elfrid Payton has a firm grip on the starting job and although Frank Ntilikina isn’t setting the world on fire with the second unit, he’s playing well enough to warrant the 15 to 25 minutes he plays each night.
Dishing out enough minutes for a triad of point guards is a tall task for Miller. His best option could be moving one of Smith or Ntilikina off the ball on the second unit, but that seems unlikely at this point. Those two have only played a total of 13 minutes together this season according to NBA.com’s lineup data. Similarly, the Smith-Payton and Ntilikina-Payton duos each have five minutes of court time together.
In addition to Smith, Marcus Morris Sr. will be available to play as well. The veteran forward was listed as questionable with a sprained right ankle.
The Knicks and Lakers will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. ET.