Ignas Brazdeikis spent most of his rookie NBA season in the G-League, appearing in only nine games for the Knicks.
The 2019 second-round pick’s quest for more regular playing time under new coach Tom Thibodeau is off to an inauspicious start, but Brazdeikis finally saw his first action in four preseason games in Friday’s 119-83 win over the Cavaliers.
“I’m just working every single day to get better. That’s the main focus is just developing my game,” said Brazdeikis, who scored one point in 17 minutes. “I’m still young. I’ve got to improve a lot. I’m not even close to the player I want to be.
“We’ve got a great coaching staff, pushing us every single day. I’m just grateful to be here and I’m working every single day to get better.”
The Michigan product said he worked on his body and his jump shot all summer at his family’s home in Ontario. He added that the new coaching staff has told him to “just to continue to get better as a whole player, making the game simple … making the right plays, making the right reads, taking the shot when you’re open, making plays for others. Just continue to work hard defensively as well, rebounding the ball, just getting better.”
The Knicks were without guards Alec Burks (personal reasons), Frank Ntilikina (sore left Achilles), Elfrid Payton (sore left hamstring), Austin Rivers (sore right groin) and Dennis Smith Jr. (sore left quad) and forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (illness), Nerlens Noel (sore left knee) and Omari Spellman (sore right knee). Burks will return to the team Saturday, Thibodeau said.
Point guard Jared Harper, who converted a four-point play in the first quarter and finished with 10 points, former Net Theo Pinson, former Seton Hall standout Myles Powell (two points in six minutes) and guard Bryce Brown also saw their first game action.
Thibodeau finished tied for fifth in the NBA.com poll of league general managers for the new or relocated coach who will make the biggest impact on his new team.
First-year Nets coach Steve Nash received the most votes (28 percent), followed by the 76ers’ Doc Rivers (24 percent), the Clippers’ Tyronn Lue and the Pelicans’ Stan Van Gundy (16 percent each), Thibodeau (8 percent) and the Bulls’ Billy Donovan (8 percent).