Trier Shows That Desire To Win Knicks Need

As the final seconds ticked down on the shot clock of a game that was all but over, Buddy Hield went over to Allonzo Trier to offer some respect for the undrafted rookie’s game.

Trier acknowledged, and as he dribbled the final few seconds out to end the game, he slammed the ball down and jogged right to the tunnel towards the locker rooms as players from both teams did the usual exchange of daps and pleasantries.

If it seemed strange that Trier looked so unfriendly after he scored a game-high 29 points in the 51st loss of a season, it shouldn’t be. This is just another reason the Knicks were smart to lock him up with a two-year, $7 million deal in December, after his dynamic start to the season on a two-way contract.

“We’re seeing him get better and better,” David Fizdale said.

We’re the only ones surprised. He isn’t. Even with the contract, Trier still plays like he’s got something to prove. He still drives to the basket with ferocity and frustrating defenses with his ability to draw fouls. Trier took 15 free throws in the game, which was more than half of the team’s total. He shoots 82% on the season, so the fact that he went 10 for 15 probably was another source of his frustration after the game.

There were 61 total free throws taken in this game, which caused a lot of stoppages in an otherwise fast-paced, back-and-forth game. Trier spoke like a veteran when asked about the momentum-stopping whistles.

“Those are things you’ve got to play through in this league,” he said. “There’s going to be nights like that.”

The Knicks don’t mind if it’s their guy who is drawing the whistles. Over the last eight games, Trier is averaging 17.4 points, and while his shooting (56%) is on point, he’s also getting to the line for 6.3 free throw attempts per game in only 26.4 minutes.

“Just trying to be the best version of myself every time I step on the court,” he said.

As we’ve said in the previous blog, Trier got away from trying to appeal to the critics who said he needed to pass more and got himself back to simply being “the best version” of himself, which is a scorer. What Trier needs to focus on while he settles in as a dynamic scorer off the bench is being a more effective defender. His compete level is there, it’s more technique and positioning. That should come with experience and coaching.

But you can’t coach fire and desire. Trier already has that.

NOTES

– Fizdale was a lot happier with the overall effort of his team following Sunday’s flatline performance against the Clippers, but the team defense was still very scattered. There were still too many open threes for the Kings (11 for 29) and a lot of fouls by a late-arriving or undisciplined defense. Some of the defensive issues had to do with poor execution on offense that resulted in turnovers the Kings quickly turned into points.

Mitchell Robinson fouled out in 18:36. It was his second DQ in three games, but the previous one was due to fouling to stop the clock late in the game against the Cavs. This time around, Robinson was in foul trouble due to his own mistakes and, to be fair, he was also the victim several times of helping on defense when a teammate was beaten. He still managed two blocks, which raised his streak with at least one block in a game to 21.

Kevin Knox looked aggressive at the start of the game, as the coaching staff scripted some early sets to get him going. He finished with 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting, which included his first three-point make in four games. He played just 21 minutes, however, and was not on the court in the fourth quarter. Knox did get off to a good start, but his intensity faded as the game went on and he was beat several times to the basket with some soft defense on pedestrian drives. This is that compete level we’re talking about.

Dennis Smith Jr. loaded up the boxscore with 18 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 29 minutes. His highlight film included a spectacular dunk and an even more impressive chase-down block of a dunk attempt by Willie Cauley-Stein. As Mike Breen noted on the MSG broadcast, Smith continues to show evidence that he could be an elite all-around player if he can just get to a point where his effort level and intensity stay consistent throughout the game.

– Trier’s 15 free throw attempts was the most by a Knicks rookie in 12 years. Nate Robinson went 14 for 15 from the line in a 34-point performance against the 76ers on March 31, 2006. The Knicks record for free throw attempts in a game by a rookie is 17, set by Walt Frazier at Boston on Feb. 4, 1968 (he had 27 points) and matched by Bill Cartwright against the Warriors on Jan. 25. 1980 (he had 31 points).

– Kings analyst Doug Christie joined MSG’s Rebecca Haarlow on the pregame show and he talked about his brief time with the Knicks. Christie played a total of 35 games over two seasons (1994-95 and 95-96) and requested a trade due to his lack of playing time. He was sent to the Raptors in Feb. 1996, which helped jumpstart his career, and eventually landed him in Sacramento. Christie said when he would run out of the tunnel to the court at The Garden and hear the “Go NY Go NY Go” song “it would give me chills.” He also said he learned a lot in that short time, mainly from Knicks mainstay Herb Williams. “Herb would be down there educating me at the and the end of the bench,” Christie said, “and a lot of those lessons I took with me to Toronto and, ultimately, they really served me well.” Coincidentally, Williams went with Christie to Toronto in a trade that brought back Victor Alexander and Willie Anderson. The Knicks dumped salary just a week before that trade when they moved Charles Smith and Monty Williams to the Spurs for JR Reid, Brad Lohaus and a No. 1 pick from the Spurs. That pick, by the way, turned into John Wallace at No. 18 overall. It came one pick after Jermaine O’Neal, two after Steve Nash and five after Kobe Bryant. Maybe the Knicks should have asked for the Spurs’ 1997 first-rounder instead?

[Watch the Knicks Battle the Suns Thursday at 8:30 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.