Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Vildoza, Randle, Playoff Experience

Frank Ntilikina was an afterthought for most of the season, but he could be part of the Knicks‘ rotation for their first-round series against the Hawks, writes Ian Begley of Coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday that he’s considering using Ntilikina for defensive purposes in certain situations.

Ntilkina got into 33 games this season and averaged 2.7 points in just 9.8 minutes per night. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, but only if the Knicks make a qualifying offer, meaning his time in New York could be about to end.

“Frank has sort of been in that role as a defensive stopper. He adds great value to our team,” Thibodeau said. “What you guys don’t see is he and Kevin Knox and a bunch of other guys who aren’t in the rotation, how hard they work in practice. And we value the practice greatly. So they’re providing a lot to our team and whatever their strengths are, we’re going to try to take advantage of that.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Luca Vildoza may not see any playing time in the postseason, but he will be on hand to cheer on his new teammates, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. The newly-signed combo guard will arrive in New York on Friday. He agreed to a four-year contract, but the final three years are non-guaranteed. The guarantee for next season will kick in the day after the season opener.
  • After a breakthrough season, Julius Randle is enjoying a week of rest before the playoffs begin, Berman adds in a separate story. This will be Randle’s first postseason experience in his seven-year NBA career. “For me, this week is important,’’ he said. “I’m doing everything — recovery-wise, taking care of my body — to make sure that I’m as fresh as possible heading into this series. It’s obviously great to have a week to prepare. I’m trying to do my best to make sure I’m ready for the grind of the series.’’
  • Lack of experience could be an issue for the Knicks in the series, suggests Peter Botte of The New York Post. Along with Randle and Ntilikina, RJ Barrett, Elfrid Payton and rookies Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin will be in the playoffs for the first time.
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