Alec Burks missed the final two preseason games, but he didn’t miss a beat in Wednesday’s opener in Indiana.
In his first game as a father and a Knick, Burks came off the bench to smoothly drop in 22 points, shooting 6 of 12 with three assists and one turnover in 32 minutes.
No rust — just production from the player who will likely become their best free-agent signing.
The 29-year-old Burks missed the two Cleveland preseason games as his wife gave birth to a baby boy, a plan that had been in place. That time away from the team led to coach Tom Thibodeau to start Reggie Bullock at shooting guard on opening night in Indiana.
That could reverse Saturday in the home opener against the Sixers. Burks, the longtime Jazz backcourtman and the Knicks’ oldest player, could start at shooting guard and also moonlight as backup point guard if Immanuel Quickley is not available because of his hip pointer. The Knicks also host the Bucks on Sunday.
“It’s a possibility,’’ Thibodeau said. “I like the scoring punch he gives us off the bench. He’s sort of great to have because of the versatility. The ability to be a secondary ball-handler, at times playing the point. Scoring the ball, guarding down a position. He’s got a lot of toughness to him. He’ll have significant role, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench.’’
The coaches love Burks, and he may become the ultimate handyman. After his wife gave birth, Burks was back at practice for three days to get back in the flow.
“My boy is doing great, the young king is here,’’ Burks said. “I’m glad about that. The game reps at game speed [in practice] helped a lot when I got back. So I was in shape for the game.”
Burks, who signed a one-year, $6 million deal, posted 19 points in the first half off the bench against Indiana. He wound up 2 of 4 from 3-point range and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. He was pleased about the cohesion, despite missing time on paternity leave in a shortened training camp.
“I’m trying to get more chemistry,’’ Burks said. “We don’t have so much practice time. I’m trying to learn everybody, and that was the main thing I was happy about it. Learning everybody’s tendencies and where they like to be on the court.’’
The Knicks coach still wants to explore Burks as a point guard. It’s an indicator neither point guards Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. have emerged.
Thibodeau used a Burks-RJ Barrett backcourt after Quickley went down. It didn’t work too well, and Thibodeau turned to Ntilikina to start the fourth quarter. That was worse. The Frenchman looked lost in his five minutes, and the Knicks folded in a 121-107 loss to the Pacers.
“I think I did all right,’’ Burks said of his debut. “The main goal is to win, so we failed.”
Burks said he did play some point guard in Utah alongside Gordon Hayward. With Stephen Curry out for the majority of last season, Burks worked alongside D’Angelo Russell as a ball hander at Golden State.
“[Warriors coach Steve] Kerr had me on-ball and off-ball,’’ Burks said.
The Warriors dealt Burks at last season’s trade deadline to the Sixers. Burks was with Philly in the Orlando bubble and in the rotation in the playoffs. In free agency, the Sixers bolstered their wing position by adding Danny Green and also signed guard Seth Curry.
According to sources, the Knicks didn’t have Burks high on their wing list, but many other options fell through for president Leon Rose.
“I don’t like talking about the past,’’ Burks said. “I wish [the Sixers] the best and success going forward. I’m here as a Knick now and glad I made that decision.”
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