Before we get carried away with the Emmanuel Mudiay Experiment, let’s take a timeout and remember that the NBA has countless stories of players that changed teams and experienced an astounding career revival — that didn’t last.
Having thrown out that caution, Mudiay’s Knicks’ debut was something to behold:
He made his first three shots, finished with 14 points and 10 assists, and put both E’s in Energy in Sunday’s 121-113 loss at Indiana.
Al Trautwig, Alan Hahn and Wally Szczerbiak point out the positives from Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay after the Knicks' loss to the Pacers.
And that was without having practice with the team.
“We went over some stuff with him,” Jeff Hornacek said prior to the Pacers game. “He hasn’t practiced with the guys, but we’re going to get him out there. The stuff we covered, he seemed like he a had a pretty good grasp of it.”
Actually, it wasn’t how much of a grasp Mudiay had of the Knicks’ system. His performance was an affirmation of why Knicks President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry made the trade deadline deal to acquire the 6-foot-5 point guard.
Since the Mills/Perry duo was placed in charge of the Knicks, they have stayed the course. Their introductory press conference wasn’t spin, it was substance. And it was an honest, transparent assessment of where the Knicks stood and what needs to be done to turnaround a proud franchise.
“It wasn’t going to be an overnight turnaround,” Perry told reporters during a Friday conference call. “We’re going to continue to add talent.
“We’re going to continue to make moves that are very prudent not only from a talent perspective but managing the salary cap. We have a plan in place to get there.”
Enter Mudiay, the 7th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Knicks considered using their No. 4 on Mudiay. They loved his athleticism and attacking style of play.
But there happened to be a Unicorn on the board and the Knicks took Kristaps Porzingis. No argument here. KP, of course, has been lost for the season with an ACL tear in his left knee.
The Knicks have lost six straight going into Monday night’s game against there Sixers, including three since the game in which KP went down in the first half. The Sixers roster is stocked with young, athletic talent.
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That’s not to suggest the Knicks are taking the same approach as the Sixers, who set standards for ineptitude from 2013-2017. But the 76ers, who currently own the final playoff spot in the East, have built through the draft.
The Knicks have a solid nucleus of Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, rookie Frank Ntilikina and a healthy KP. Mudiay and fellow point guard Trey Burke, could be part of that nucleus, but it will take the rest of the season to evaluate them.
“When we bring in another point guard and young kid in Emmanuel, we have to look at things,’’ Hornacek said. “We have a couple more games before the break. Then when we come back we have a few practices before that first game. If we’re going to do something, that will be the time.”
Emmanuel Mudiay chats with Rebecca Haarlow before making his Knick debut, speaking on a new beginning and his excitement in being on the ball club.
That means Hornacek could move Ntilikina and/or Mudiay into the starting lineup. He has said he will play the two together for extended stretches.
So let’s call it “The Emmanuel Mudiay/Frank Ntilikina Experiment.”
It could be something to behold.
“Definitely excited,” Mudiay said. “I almost thought I was going to be here three years ago, so the fact that I’m here now is definitely a good thing. I’m happy to be here. I wanted to be here.’’