After being sidelined with a neck injury since training camp, Courtney Lee is finally probable to play tomorrow against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Courtney Lee is probable to play tomorrow, David Fizdale says. Knicks could get him back in time to try to help guard Giannis. He hasn't played this season because of a neck injury.
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) November 30, 2018
With tomorrow being his first game back in so long, you should expect Coach Fizdale to ease him into game action.
Accordingly, Fizdale mentioned that there won’t be any changes to the starting lineup, as confirmed by Chris Iseman of The Record:
David Fizdale said his starting lineup will remain the same tomorrow. #Knicks
— Chris Iseman (@ChrisIseman) November 30, 2018
Courtney Lee’s return will be comforting – at the minimum – for Coach Fizdale as his team has lost two straight games and had one of their worst performances of the season on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. Lee’s return will bring a true veteran presence to a rotation that lacks a player older than 26 years old.
From a game perspective, Lee can provide some order to a team that often settles for isolation baskets when plays break down and lets their guard down during stretches on defense. At the minimum, Lee can be a guide for our younger players to know where to be on the floor at different times during the game.
However, Lee’s return will also create an undoubted rotation crunch to a roster that’s already had several players accrue DNPs this season. Here are a list of the players (in order of likeliness) that will be impacted by the return:
1) Damyean Dotson
Lee’s return will most likely cut into Dotson’s minutes. Dotson got minutes as an energy spark in the last two games and was already a DNP in the four previous games. Based on where he fit in the rotation before Lee returned, it seems like Dotson’s minutes are in greatest jeopardy.
2) Frank Ntilikina
Frank Ntilikina’s minutes have dwindled over the last four games. He’s often the last guard to enter the game in the 1st quarter, subbing in for Tim Hardaway Jr. Trey Burke has typically come in as the backup PG for Mudiay and will most likely continue in that role. In the last few games, Frank had been relegated to garbage time minutes in the 4th quarter. There is a strong possibility that Lee’s return may also cut into his minutes even further as long as Frank’s playing as a wing.
3) Mario Hezonja
Outside of Hezonja’s strong start against the 76ers, he’s been quiet since being inserted into the starting lineup. Hezonja’s also endured some DNPs before the starting lineup change. Hezonja is slightly safer to retain minutes because Fizdale isn’t ready to change the starting lineup just yet. However, any new starting lineup will likely send Hezonja back to the bench and most likely into DNPs.
4) Trey Burke
Burke’s job as a backup lead guard is safe for the moment as Fizdale’s not ready to make any starting lineup changes. However, Burke’s had a rough shooting stretch since scoring 29 points against the Celtics before Thanksgiving. A combination of bad defense and a rough shooting slump sent Burke to a round of DNPs earlier in the month. A prolonged slump could also send Burke back into that direction with Lee’s return.