If Kevin Durant becomes a Knick, rookie guard Allonzo Trier will have at least one teammate who will like him.
Trier admitted last week he’s “absolutely’’ hoping the Knicks can land his mentor from Oklahoma City, where the Arizona product attended two years of high school.
However, according to multiple sources connected to the Knicks, Trier’s lack of popularity among his veteran teammates was something of a concern in the locker room. Maybe Durant can help him if he comes.
While Trier got along swimmingly with fellow rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, some vets felt Trier’s one-on-one style didn’t help the team’s culture during its league-worst 17-65 season.
Trier’s self-proclaimed nickname is “IsoZo” and Knicks coach David Fizdale levied praise on him as a bright spot, lauding his work ethic and overachievement as an undrafted player. Trier turned a two-way G-League contract into a spot on the 15-man roster in December.
But there were warts.
“His play on the court was cancerous,” one NBA source said. “A lot of guys didn’t like the way he didn’t play team ball. He cared about himself too much. He looked guys off who were open.’’
During a Nov. 27 game in Detroit, Trier brought the ball up the court with Trey Burke all alone ahead. Trier didn’t throw it ahead for the easy layup. Instead, Trier barreled toward the basket.
While he drew a foul, players on the bench yelled at Trier, scolded him for not feeding Burke, who held his palms up, shaking his head after the whistle.
The more publicized incident occurred Jan. 23, when Tim Hardaway Jr. chewed out Trier on the court after Trier failed to pass to him on a two-on-one fast break with Hardaway open on the left.
Another NBA source familiar with the situation said when players would choose sides for pickup games before or after practice, he often was one of the last chosen. The Knicks players wanted to play with guys who passed to the open man.
Both Hardaway and Burke were shipped to Dallas days after that on-court incident, part of the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster. The trade opened up two max-salary slots, allowing the potential of Durant bringing along a star sidekick.
“I don’t have to watch social media,’’ Trier said last week when asked how he will follow July’s fireworks. “I’ll speak to him directly. Whatever he decides to do, it’s on him.”
The possibility is music to Trier’s ears. Durant used to attend some of his high school games in Oklahoma. While Trier chatted with two reporters recently, a Knicks public relations official warned Trier about tampering.
“I really don’t bother him [during the season],’’ Trier said. “If he wants to congratulate me on [me] playing well, [he’ll text,] ‘Keep it up.’ When we talk he says if I ever need advice, I should talk to him. He’s grown. I’m not a young man [any more,] I don’t want to be a burden. He’s a good family friend to have. He’s like a brother to me.”
Fizdale had admitted Trier’s scoring style was a dilemma. While Trier was effective, the Knicks coach’s mantra was to breed a ball-moving offense in which nobody holds the ball for more than a few seconds. Fizdale has said Trier was the lone player on the roster he gave more leeway in that department. Still, one of the NBA sources said Fizdale, in general, didn’t hold the three rookies accountable enough.
Trier finished averaging 10.9 points on 44.8 percent shooting. A series of leg injuries cost him 18 games, including the final 11 with a knee/calf strain. If the draft were redone, Trier, who failed two steroid tests at Arizona, probably would be a late first-rounder.
“I absolutely believed I continued to get better,’’ Trier said. “I was proud of the way I improved over the whole season. Really, aside from the time I had the hamstring injury, I came back and really wasn’t myself, other than that seven-game stretch, I was consistent all the way through. And I made strides in a lot of different areas. I learned a lot about myself and about this league.”
Trier has no shortage of confidence. Fizdale noted Trier, after getting snubbed in the draft, guaranteed to him he’d make the team out of training camp. Fizdale has compared Trier to Lou Williams, expected to win his third Sixth Man of the Year Award.
The 6-foot-5 guard out of Seattle admitted he still has to work on “small things’’ to take the next step, likely alluding to getting his teammates involved more.
“I have a lot of the hard stuff down, a lot of ability things a lot of people don’t have I’m blessed to have,’’ said Trier regarding his exit meeting with Fizdale. “It’s about putting together the small things to be that much better of a player. This summer with me improving and focusing on [that], it will allow me to make that jump.’’
The Knicks have a team option for $3.5 million on Trier. If they need added cap space to fit in Durant and, say, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, they may be able to release Trier and re-sign him for a little less.
“We’ll see how, I guess,’’ Trier said. “Everything pointed toward me being here.”
Published at Mon, 15 Apr 2019 04:40:48 +0000