Derrick Rose took advantage of his season’s first start at point guard on the first possession.
Rose started the Knicks’ 140-point outburst by ripping to the basket and converting a lefty runner off the glass. The Knicks never stopped scoring in the first game Elfrid Payton has missed this season.
Will this be the passing of the point guard torch or just a one-night stand? Rose scored 18 points, making his first six shots in the Knicks’ 140-121 victory over the awful Kings on Thursday at the festive Garden.
Remember when Rose came aboard? Tom Thibodeau’s first remarks were Rose “initially’’ would come off the bench.
Payton sat with a sore hamstring and Rose, acquired this month, was anointed the starter — his first Knicks start since the 2016-17 season when he was first with the team.
Though Rose, 32, has started 618 games in his career, before the trade he was on a minutes restriction of 25 minutes with Detroit.
“It’s not hard,’’ Rose said before the game. “It’s basketball. It’s still basketball, bro. Giving guys the ball where they want the ball. Thibs will put us in a great spot to be prepared in certain situations and my job is just to push the ball, so just applying pressure whenever I can and just play my game. I don’t think I have to overthink it. I’ve been a starter the majority of my career. So it shouldn’t be too hard.’’
Former Knicks coach David Fizdale will always wonder what last season might have looked like if Payton didn’t strain his hamstring in the season’s fifth game. By the time Payton returned after an 18-game absence, Fizdale was 4-18 and was fired after Payton’s first rusty game back.
It’s been quite different for Payton in his second season as a Knick. He’s been an ironman, playing in the first 32 games before Thursday.
Payton was a game-time decision but called it off after taking a handful of free throws an hour before tipoff. He’s averaging 12.4 points, 3.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds on 44.1 percent shooting.
Payton’s hamstring acted up in Tuesday’s game against Golden State. He’s been durable — and effective — holding off cries for rookie Immanuel Quickley to start ahead of him before Rose arrived.
“In terms of Elfrid’s value to the team, we’ve seen it,’’ Thibodeau said. “His strengths are different than some of the other guys — his size, ability to guard the ball and ability to get in the paint, they’re invaluable to use. He’s had a very good season.’’