The Knicks considered sending guard Dennis Smith Jr. to the G-League after he was away from the team for nearly two weeks, but now that opportunity has passed, according to David Fizdale.
Smith made his return in Tuesday’s loss to the Bulls and looked rusty, which was understandable given he had only been working out on his own while away mourning the death of his stepmother. In 14 minutes Tuesday, he shot 0-for-3 with three turnovers, two assists and two steals while collecting a minus-22.
But the NBA club will let him regain his rhythm and wind on the fly, not in low-pressure minutes with the Westchester Knicks.
“We thought about it, but we just felt like it wasn’t an injury that took him out,” Fizdale said Wednesday. “It was more from a conditioning standpoint. So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna play him, try to play him in smaller doses to get him back in shape. Obviously he’s doing a lot of court work, three-on-three, two-on-two. Today he had a full practice, which was great. “I don’t see us sending him down. No, he’s back with us now.”
Fizdale said he felt Smith played better in Chicago than his line indicated. The point guard was on the floor to start the fourth quarter, with the game tied 85-85. By the time he came out, the Knicks trailed 99-89.
“He actually moved very well,” Fizdale said. “He made a few good decisions.I think the plus-minus was a little unfair just because it was his group collectively that wasn’t getting the job done.”
Smith missed last week’s game against his former team, the Mavericks, but will face them Thursday for the first time since the Knicks acquired him in January.
Kristaps Porzingis racked up 28 points (on 11 of 22 shooting and 4 of 8 from deep) and nine rebounds against the Knicks on Friday in Dallas. But the Knicks won, so they didn’t mind letting Porzingis get his production. And they would gladly take that trade-off again in the rematch Thursday at the Garden.
“He didn’t hurt us,” Julius Randle said. “We protected the paint. He got loose for a couple of 3s and a couple of turnarounds in the post over guards and stuff like that. Other than that, we were willing to kind of live with stuff he was doing.”
Mitchell Robinson was still in the concussion protocol Wednesday, but the Knicks listed him as questionable to play Thursday. The center has missed three straight games since suffering the concussion Nov. 6 in Detroit.
“He’s getting there,” Fizdale said. “I think it’s a few more tests they gotta go through and then we’ll know.”
Reggie Bullock (cervical disk herniation), who has returned to the team following the death of his sister, has been medically cleared to participate in non-contact drills on the court and will be reevaluated in early December, the team said. … Point guard Elfrid Payton (hamstring) did not practice and remains day-to-day.
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