Dennis Smith Jr. is nearing a return — again.
The Knicks point guard practiced for the first time Saturday since sustaining a concussion against the 76ers on Feb. 27, which cost him the past four games. He is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Pistons at the Garden, awaiting final clearance to get out of the concussion protocol.
“He’ll have to go through the medical part now,” interim coach Mike Miller said after practice.
Smith’s season has been stop-and-go. He missed seven games early on to tend to the death of his stepmother. He later missed 13 games with an oblique strain. In 34 games, he is averaging 5.5 points and 2.9 assists.
“Whenever we can have a full roster and be at full strength, it obviously helps us in every way,” Miller said.
Point guard Frank Ntilikina also appears to have shaken off the strained right ankle he suffered in Friday’s 126-103 loss to the Thunder. The injury sent him to the locker room in the second quarter, but he returned to play four minutes in the fourth quarter.
Ntilikina practiced Saturday and is probable for Sunday.
“Frank practiced today, pretty much fully. He was in and out, but did a lot of things,” Miller said.
The Knicks went through a coaching change three months before the Nets did, and though their situations are much different, Miller said he had one mindset when he took over as interim coach.
“The thing we were very conscious of, the players’ window to play, their careers, go by so fast that none of us are in a position where we can just let a year go,” Miller said.
Knicks guard Elfrid Payton was a rookie on the 2014-15 Magic team that was coached by new interim Nets coach Jacque Vaughn.
“He’s a good coach,” Payton said of Vaughn, who was fired midseason that year. “I’m really rooting for him. Never hope nobody gets fired, but hoping Jacque does well.”
Miller said his approach is to take something from every game — a win or a lesson. As for Julius Randle’s way of dealing with Friday’s blowout loss to the Thunder?
“Flush it. Flush it,” Randle said. “No chance I’m thinking about that game. Credit Chris Paul, he did a great job leading that team. Flush it man, we just had a bad performance.”