Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Kanter, Randle, Trier

As head coach David Fizdale promised, Frank Ntilikina is getting his chance to prove whether he can be the Knicks‘ solution at point guard, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. After barely being used in the first few games, Ntilikina made his first start of the season Friday night, playing 38 minutes in a narrow loss to the Celtics.

The third-year point guard’s strengths and weaknesses were both on display. He defended well against a variety of players, but only had two assists and his shot remains a concern. He was 4-of-9 for the game, but has made just 7-of-24 attempts from the field for the season and is only 3-of-10 beyond the arc.

“He’s learning,” former teammate Enes Kanter said. “Obviously, he was learning last year, but there was too much pressure on him. Now I feel he feels more comfortable and more confident out there. Obviously, I think he’s one of the best defenders out there and his vision on the court is amazing. I’m happy to see him grown because he’s an amazing dude on and off the court.”

Although Fizdale has vowed to give all the players in New York’s crowded backcourt a chance to prove themselves, Ntilikina’s start came largely because of circumstance with Elfrid Payton injured and Dennis Smith Jr. absent because of a death in the family. Even though the Knicks offered a show of confidence in their No. 8 pick from 2017 by picking up his fourth-year option last month, Ntilikina will eventually have to produce more on offense to earn consistent minutes.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Although Kanter had a contentious end to his time with the Knicks, he enjoyed a friendly reunion with the team Friday night, Vorkunov adds in the same story. Upset over a lack of playing time, Kanter asked for a trade and was eventually waived in February. All seems to be forgiven as he hugged team president Steve Mills on the court. “I like all these guys — even with Julius Randle, because we had this beef and everything,” Kanter said. “… I see there are a lot of good characters on the team. I’m really excited to see them grow together.”
  • Not having a play-making guard to rely on is affecting Randle’s game, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle took just seven shots Friday and had a season-low eight points. He turned the ball over six times, giving him 25 in the past five games, and is just 1-for-15 on 3-pointers for the season.
  • Opening-night starter Allonzo Trier has fallen completely out of the rotation, Berman notes in the same piece. Fizdale wouldn’t explain why Trier racked up his third straight DNP, but his time has gone to free agent addition Wayne Ellington. Another offseason signee, Taj Gibson, also wasn’t used against the Celtics.
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12 thoughts on “Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Kanter, Randle, Trier

  1. Man, Fizdale’s erratic decision making is really going to negatively affect all of these young players. It’s a mess

  2. Not that the Knicks have enough talent to compete, I have to agree that Fizdale’s schizophrenia is and will continue hurting this team. This guy is a terrible player and game manager, he needs to go.

    • It’s partly the front office’s fault. They have too many ‘good’ players, but no difference makers.
      What’s their best starting five on paper? Elfrid, Barrett, Morris, Randle, Portis?
      Smith, Frank, Trier, Gibson, Robinson off the bench?
      Ellington, Knox and Rabb are odd-men-out.
      Maybe the ‘bench mob’ approach and let the players decide it with their on-court play?

      • metsie1

        I agree with your premise. However, Knox “odd man out” doesn’t align with the facts. He is currently averaging 12ppg and 24 mpg. Not exactly Rabb territory.

        • I agree, he should play, but are Morris Portis and Gibson going to be happy on less minutes.
          Randle’s contract makes him a ‘must play’

  3. Jason Lancaster

    Based on the fact that Dolan has told coaches who to play in the past, there’s every reason to think he’s doing the same now.

    Having said that, Fizdale’s process here is baffling. Maybe he’s done a good job of explaining it to the team, but my guess is he’s just erratic. Can’t be good for team chemistry or player development when expectations are a moving Target.

  4. dust44

    Never understand the Knicks. Knox is going to b good. But u sign 4 forwards in the offseason. U got Smith and Frank who to b competitive u need one to develop and one to accept the bench role. And u sign a Vet PG who needs mins. And then u start a young dude in trier who is now out of the rotation. Play the young guys and c what u got. They r bad either way. Only signing I agree with is Randle because he’s still on the young side to grow with the other young dudes. And Mitchell Robinson should play 25-30 mins a night.

  5. It was good to see Frank finally start and play, and not have to worry about being pulled after every missed shot or mistake. But Fizdale was forced into this by three other guys being unavailable. I’m not convinced Fizdale doesn’t bail on Frank the first chance he gets. He’s a compulsive tinkerer with rotations, and Frank is certainly not one of his favorites.

    On other inexplicable Fizdale rotation decisions, Dotson and Trier are both RFAs at the end of the year. It should be an organizational priority to find out about them vs giving time to a guy like Ellington (older and never more than a bottom of the rotation guy). If either Dotson or Trier isn’t going to play, then deal them.

  6. formerlyz

    Should have signed Morris, kept Vonleh, and maybe still signed Randle and Bullock, and that would have been fine. Said this would happen. Didnt think Gibson would be one of the guys not playing, so probably a mistake by him to not go elsewhere, b/c he could actually contribute, but there is no spot for him on the floor, unless they sit Portis

    I dont think its Fizdale’s fault. Hes trying to build winning players and a winning culture in an environment where nobody knows what it looks like, and his front office didnt help him much. Why sign certain guys to deals, some for trade purposes, if they arent going to play, so it’s not on him for playing those guys early in the season.

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