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Jarrett Jack is a surprising win for Knicks GM

DALLAS — It was a night to celebrate the point guard. Frank Ntilikina won his first battle over Dennis Smith Jr. Derek Harper, one of the Knicks’ best point guards, who helped lead the club to the 1994 NBA Finals, had his Mavericks “12″ raised to the rafters.

Another Knicks legend, Earl Monroe, was on hand doing radio for the first time this season, posing for pictures with team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry.

Then there was the symbolic moment for their starting point guard, Jarrett Jack, who was not released Sunday, meaning the non-guaranteed contract he signed before training camp became officially guaranteed for the rest of the season, per NBA rules. The deal is for the $2.1 million veteran’s minimum. He went out and hit the game-winner with 31 seconds left, getting the perfect screen from Kristaps Porzingis and sinking a floater in the lane.

Before the game, Perry wanted to celebrate the Jack signing and released a rare statement about the player coming off a couple of knee surgeries.

Perry, in his first significant move, signed Jack to a non-guaranteed deal, even though Mills had inked Ramon Sessions earlier in the summer. Perry nearly signed Jack in Sacramento, but left the Kings before that could happen.

Looking slow in training camp, Jack figured to be released once Joakim Noah was back from drug suspension. Instead, he’s still ticking after stealing the starting point guard job from Sessions following the Knicks starting 0-3. Now Sessions is in line to get cut if the Knicks decide to give Westchester Knicks sensation Trey Burke a chance to play with his former Michigan teammate Tim Hardaway Jr.

“Jarrett has been a leader for the Knicks on and off the court,” Perry said. “He’s a valuable member of this team and we look forward to him continuing his successful play the remainder of the season.”

Recently, Jack, who finished with 12 points and eight assists, has slumped, prompting coach Jeff Hornacek to not dismiss the possibility of Ntilikina starting later this season.

It probably will happen, with Ntilikina looking more polished overall than Smith on Sunday. Ntilikina filled up the box score with his seven points, five assists, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals while Smith shot poorly in an 11-point night and didn’t see action in the fourth. Smith didn’t score any of his points against Ntilikina, mostly against Jack.

But Ntilikina was on the bench in the final four minutes while one of Perry’s success stories hit the biggest shot.

“When we brought him in, it was how will his knee respond,” Hornacek said. “Having the surgery recently, coming back from that, Jarrett’s worked hard to get himself in great shape. The knee hasn’t bothered him much — occasionally here and there. He’s helped bring veteran leadership to our young guys. Earlier in the season he was able to direct traffic offensively, telling guys where to go all the time until they really learned it well. He’s been a good veteran leader that way.’’

Courtney Lee buried four straight free throws in the final 10 seconds to seal the win — all while not knowing about his historic free-throw streak. Lee now has made 43 straight free throws and is one away from the franchise record of 44 set by Chris Duhon. Hornacek didn’t know of the streak until informed afterward, saying he wouldn’t address it out of superstition.

“He’s a great free-throw shooter,’’ said Hornacek, who sank a Jazz-record 67 in a row in 1999. Knicks staffers swear Lee is unaware of the streak and record. Lee also hasn’t missed one on the road this season (30-for-30).

Backup center Kyle O’Quinn continued his powerful, unsung season on a night that should increase his trade value. A huge second half had O’Quinn with a 15-point (6-of-7 from the field), 11-rebound finish.

Michael Beasley, who missed the game with an ankle sprain and is hoping to make his return Wednesday, said: “That was a lot of Kyle O’Quinn in the third quarter. That third quarter was special. He started to bring the ball up. He thought he was at Lifetime Fitness.”


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