In his quest to determine the winners of an open competition for all five positions, David Fizdale said he has total autonomy and will not be swayed by contract or draft status.
“No one is promised a starting position. I got the freedom from my bosses over there,” Fizdale said, pointing at the long line of team executives who’ve been observing training camp from the sideline. “So it’s open. Don’t matter if you make a lot of money or you make a little money. If you earn the spot, you play. That’s it.”
Tim Hardaway Jr., who last year signed a four-year, $71 million contract, is the obvious starter at shooting guard. Beyond the contractual commitment to the 26-year-old, Hardaway Jr. also has known Fizdale the longest of any player (His father, Tim Hardaway Sr., played for the Miami Heat while Fizdale was there as a video coordinator). But if it’s truly a fair and equal competition as Fizdale claims, Hardaway could feasibly be beaten in this competition by Courtney Lee or Frank Ntilikina.
Hardaway said he’s welcoming the contest.
“At the end of the day, everybody has to compete. Everything is earned,” Hardaway said. “So you have to go out there and compete, play with heart, play with passion, and do what he tells you to do. At the end of the day, he’s going to make the right decision, put the five guys he wants out there to start the game. And we go from there.”
Fizdale reiterated Wednesday that he prefers his small forwards to be tall, meaning Hardaway Jr. and Lee won’t be starting there like last season. The competition for the two forward spots – at least until Kristaps Porzingis returns – should come down to Lance Thomas, Mario Hezonja and Kevin Knox.
Enes Kanter was assumed to be the starting center since he opted into his contract, but the 26-year-old understands he can’t act like it under Fizdale.
“He’s going to throw up the ball and whoever gets it is going to earn that job,” Kanter said. “I think everybody is out here fighting for it. I like that a lot because he’s not giving anybody free lunch.”
Fizdale said he won’t settle on a starting lineup until after the final preseason game on Oct. 12.