The Knicks refuse to quit on the season

Jaime Harris | 3/29/2018, 2:29 p.m.
It would be a mischaracterization to assert the Knicks have little to play for as they close out the season.

It would be a mischaracterization to assert the Knicks have little to play for as they close out the season. Their effort, even if the outcomes for the most part haven’t been favorable, has been commendable over the better part of the past two weeks. It is by and large attributable to head coach Jeff Hornacek, in consultation with team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry, allocating minutes to young players who the Knicks are intently evaluating.

After losing 17 of 18 games from Jan. 31 through March 15, the Knicks were 3-3 over the past six games heading into last night’s (Wednesday) road matchup against the surging Philadelphia 76ers, who were fourth in Eastern Conference at 43-30, only one-half game behind the 44-30 third-place Cleveland Cavaliers. The 27-48 Knicks were 11th in the East, eliminated from the postseason for the fifth straight season.

Their rotation now includes 7-foot-1 rookie forward-center Luke Kornet and second-year small forward Troy Williams. Kornet, 22, was signed to a two-way contract last July after going undrafted out of Vanderbilt and showing potential with the Knicks’ summer league team. He has spent most of this season playing for the Westchester Knicks, the franchise’s G-League affiliate.

The 6-foot-7 Williams, 23, played three seasons at Indiana University and went undrafted in 2016. He was initially signed by the Memphis Grizzlies and assigned to the G-League before earning a spot with the Houston Rockets on a 10-day contract last March. Williams was released by the Rockets last month and signed by the Knicks.

Kornet registered 27 minutes Monday in the Knicks’ 137-128 overtime loss versus the Charlotte Hornets on the road and Williams logged 17 minutes. After the Knicks’ 108-104 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Madison Square Garden last Friday, Williams said his brief time with the team has provided him valuable experience.

“Getting the playing time has definitely helped my development,” assessed Williams. “I’m a visual learner so seeing how things should be done, being shown how to do things…and watching from the bench is also extremely helpful. But being on the court gives you the opportunity to apply what you have learned. So for me it’s been really important to gain more experience.”

With only six games remaining this season, the most intriguing player for the Knicks is point guard Trey Burke. After beginning this season with Kornet in the G-League, the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft, who along with the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. led Michigan to the 2013 NCAA championship game, signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks Feb. 21. He has since claimed the starting point-guard spot, and had a stellar 42-point, 12-assists performance against the Hornets to begin the week.

The Knicks’ key decision makers will have many scenarios to mull over leading up to this June’s draft and over the subsequent months. Burke will be prominent in the discussions. Are they going to move forward with the 25-year-old 6-footer as their long-term starter, a critical component coming off the bench or a trade asset to acquire another piece to the rebuilding process?