New York Knicks: Starting point guard role has become Elfrid Payton’s place

Elfrid Payton, New York Knicks (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Elfrid Payton, New York Knicks (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks are continuing to retool their team in the middle of the season with Elfrid Payton stepping up to the challenge.

Elfrid Payton had big plans for his first season with the New York Knicks looking to prove himself as an impact point guard in this league. Payton, who signed a two-year contract worth $16 million as a free agent over the summer, has seen little action due to injury problems to start the season. A bad hamstring limited him to only four games under head coach David Fizdale before his firing earlier this month.

The veteran guard has found his groove recently with the additional playing time under interim head coach Mike Miller. The former G League coach of the year has mixed things up often regarding the point guard assignment. He’s showcased Payton along with Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. 

The trio of guards still hasn’t found consistency as of yet, but Payton has shown promise for deserving the long term starting role. The 25-year-old former first-round draft pick has brought a balance to the team and taken full reigns of the leader role on the court. He spoke with the New York Post recently about the success lately since coming back from injury.

"“I was out a long time, and you don’t even realize it. The games come so fast, you don’t even know how fast the season’s going,” Payton said. “I’m starting to get back."

"“I’m just trying to protect the ball. Some nights it’s going to be better than other nights. Guys are knocking down shots … That’s really it. Trying to make everyone as comfortable as possible out there.”"

Heading into this past Friday night’s loss against the Miami Heat, Payton has averaged 9.3 points and 6.7 assists per game. The Knicks went 3-3 during the stretch, including a blowout victory at home against the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks were struggling badly before Payton’s return but have now found a tiny spark of energy to push harder this season.

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The Knicks would find it in their best interest to keep Payton along with one of the other two point guard candidates. The trade deadline is quickly approaching, and critical decisions need to be made to propel the franchise.