Knicks Notes: Hardaway, Ntilikina, Smith, Kanter

Tim Hardaway Jr. was a limited participant in practice today and is optimistic about returning during a six-game road trip that starts January 18, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Hardaway has been sidelined for five weeks by a stress reaction in his left leg, and the Knicks have fallen below .500 without him as an outside scoring threat.

“I was itching to get back for Christmas, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen,” Hardaway said. “I was itching to go home against Miami [Friday], my hometown. It was painful not to be there. I had those two games circled on the calendar.’’

Hardaway was New York’s top free agent addition of the offseason, signing a $71MM deal over four years. He was an important contributor to the team’s fast start, averaging 17.8 points over 21 games before the injury.

There’s more tonight out of New York:

  • Point guards Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith may be linked throughout their careers because of their proximity in the draft, but they are different types of players, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Ntilikina is a defensive standout who has struggled with his shot and ballhandling, and some scouts believe he will eventually be moved to off guard. Smith is outstanding on offense, but has shortcomings on defense. They will meet for the first time Sunday when the Mavericks host the Knicks. “That part of him being aggressive, that’s always interesting to watch,” Ntilikina said of Smith. “That’s the part I have to explore in my game. Something I can learn and take [from him], as I said he’s a great player offensively.”
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is denying a New York Times report that his professed interest in Ntilikina before the draft was a ruse to get the Knicks to pass on Smith, Bondy adds in a separate story. “Not a stunt at all,” Cuban wrote in an email. “We like Frank quite a bit. If Dennis had been selected there was a very good chance we would have taken Frank.” Smith had an awkward pre-draft meeting with the Knicks, Bondy recalls, and he refused to hold an individual workout or share his medical records with the team.
  • After a few months in New York, Enes Kanter feels like he wants to retire as a Knick, relays Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Kanter has excelled since being acquired from the Thunder in the Carmelo Anthony trade, but he has an $18.4MM player option that could determine his future with the team. He said he hasn’t decided if he will exercise it.

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