Austin Rivers still hasn’t had a full practice with the Knicks, but he’s already making his veteran presence felt in games.
After missing training camp and the Knicks’ first four games of the season with a groin injury, Rivers has joined his new teammates on the fly. He chipped in a 15-point effort Saturday, with 10 of those points coming in the fourth quarter of a 106-102 win over the Pacers.
Rivers came off the bench in his second game of the season but was on the court in crunch time, with coach Tom Thibodeau subbing him in for Reggie Bullock for the final 3:51 of the fourth quarter. The guard drained a 3-pointer to put the Knicks ahead for good, 98-96, and later added a fast-break layup after a Mitchell Robinson block.
“[Thibodeau] just tells me to go play, because he knows I don’t have any familiarity with anything yet in terms of the team and the sets,” Rivers said. “He did a great job of walking me through it, being patient with me. I’m still learning. It sucks I didn’t get any practices either. I haven’t practiced with the team yet at all. So I really kind of just came into this. But the easiest thing to do sometimes is just play. You don’t have to worry about the plays, this or that, just go play.”
While Rivers made his season debut Thursday against the Raptors, he still hasn’t had a chance to practice as the Knicks grind through a road trip with four games in seven days. It wraps up Monday against the Hawks before the Knicks head back to New York, which could open the door for Rivers to finally get on the practice court.
“Each game, I’m getting more and more familiar with everything,” Rivers said. “In terms of basketball-wise, I’m fine. I’ll go out there and do what I do and be aggressive and try to help the team in any area I can and just build. We’re just building, man, so this is just the start. We [have] got a lot of work to do.”
Alec Burks (sprained left ankle), who has missed the last three games, is questionable for Monday’s matchup against the Hawks. Dennis Smith Jr. (contused left quad) and Omari Spellman (sore right knee) are doubtful, while Frank Ntilikina (sprained right knee) and Obi Toppin (strained right calf) are out.