Dennis Smith’s Knicks second chance was forced to wait

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Mike Miller pulled off his first deception since becoming interim head coach one week ago.

The Knicks posted their first victory in three weeks Wednesday in San Francisco with Dennis Smith Jr. missing the game with a migraine. During Friday morning’s shootaround before the Knicks’ 103-101 win over the Kings, Miller said he still planned to keep the struggling Smith in the rotation.

That would have created a three-man logjam at point guard with Frank Ntilikina, Elfrid Payton (who returned last week after missing 17 games with a hamstring injury) and Smith.

Miller, however, wasn’t being fully forthcoming. When push came to shove, Miller kept Smith on the bench the entire game, using just Ntilikina and the emerging Payton.

Ntilikina struggled against the Kings, scoring two points on 1-for-5 shooting in 21 minutes while Payton continued his strong play, scoring 16 points, grabbing four rebounds and handing out four assists in 27 minutes.

Before the game, Miller said his mission is being a “downhill’’ team and creating more points in the paint. That is considered Smith’s specialty — his explosive driving ability.

Dennis Smith
Dennis Smith Jr.Paul J. Bereswill

Milller said he has been pleased by the Knicks’ attack mode in the three games since David Fizdale was fired as head coach, and the advanced stats bear it out with increases in paint touches and points in the paint.

Miller believes a three-man point guard rotation will keep up the attack mentality with fresher legs.

“We really feel we have three guys we can go with that bring different things to the table,’’ Miller said. “They’re good players that bring different things to the games you have to prepare for. We want to continue to attack the paint. Being able to play different guys at that position, it keeps us more aggressive.”

Allonzo Trier, who did not play Wednesday against the Warriors and who has been mostly out of the rotation, suffered a concussion during a workout in Sacramento during Thursday’s off-day. Trier, who bumped heads with a teammate, missed Friday’s game against the Kings and under NBA guidelines will have to sit out Sunday at Denver.


Wayne Ellington missed his third straight game with a sore Achilles and the Knicks were set to call up point guard Kadeem Allen for Sunday’s game.


Oddly, Ntilikina, talking for the first time since Fizdale got axed, refused to divulge the message his former coach gave him on his way out. Ntilikina had left the facility when the firing occurred following last Friday’s practice.

“He texted back,’’ Ntilikina said. Asked what was the gist, Ntilikina said blankly, “He texted back.’’

For more on the Knicks, listen to the latest episode of the “Big Apple Buckets” podcast:

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