Frank Ntilikina

Knicks Notes: Knox, Ntilikina, Porzingis, Ujiri

Knicks head coach David Fizdale is using the term “tough love” to describe his decision to bench second-year forward Kevin Knox, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Knox was held out of Friday’s loss to the Sixers and had only been averaging 12.1 minutes per night in the previous four games. It’s been a trend for the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, whose minutes have fallen from 28.8 per game in 2018/19 to 19.8 this season.

“Sometimes they’ve got to go through some tough love to find themselves and watch the game from 25,000 feet, see it, and see the things that I’m emphasizing,” Fizdale said after Saturday’s practice. “I was tough on Frank (Ntilikina) last year and I just feel like Frank has come back with a whole different mindset about how he’s going to go about this season. I’ve been so happy with the way he’s played and produced. But I do think a little bit of tough love on some of these young guys isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Knox will be “a consideration, for sure” to return to the lineup today, Fizdale added. Marcus Morris is listed as questionable for the game because of cervical spasms in his neck.

There’s more from New York this morning:

  • Ntilikina tells Botte that he benefited from last year’s experience and encourages Knox to find ways to help the team when he’s not on the court. Ntilikina began this season out of the rotation, but has made 14 consecutive starts at point guard. He said an offseason meeting with Fizdale gave him a new perspective. “There’s a lot of noise with this team, a lot of expectations,” Ntilikina explained. “Around this city, a lot of expectations. Obviously, those expectations are for us to get better. But what we have to understand, too, is we have expectations, and [Fizdale] wants us to get better, and he wants us to be the best team possible. He wants us to be the best possible, that’s the same for every player.”
  • Former Knicks guard Trey Burke, who was part of the package sent to Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, offered some insight into Porzingis’ perspective on the deal and his falling out with management in New York, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “A lot of things the press said, he felt like wasn’t true,’’ Burke said. “He feels like there was a narrative that got out about him, he couldn’t defend himself. I don’t know if (Dallas) told him not to talk that much, but he wasn’t talking. I do think he has his side.’’
  • The Knicks may try to lure Raptors executive Masai Ujiri after the season ends, and there are fears in Toronto that he might accept their offer, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. Ujiri may view New York City as a larger platform to help expand his Giants of Africa foundation, which aids children in his home continent.

New York Notes: Ntilikina, Mills, Shumpert, Claxton

A starter in seven straight games, Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina is finally trending in the right direction, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv, largely because of his newfound mental approach to the game that began last season and continued this summer.

“I think the work I put in all summer and even last season while I was injured, allows me to be more comfortable and everything else in life be more comfortable here in this country, this situation as an NBA player, said Ntilikina. “And everything is set now, so my mind is all the way into basketball and do what it takes to get to the next level.

There’s more from the Big Apple this afternoon:

  • Lesser-used players like Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa rewarded Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson with his trust in them during the team’s recent win over Chicago, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “That’s what we’re about,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to trust these guys. They put in the work, they’ve been in our program a while so they understand what we’re doing. We can’t burn out our other guys, our top eight. We can’t play them 45 minutes. So, those guys’ contributions were huge.”
  • Stefan Bondy of the Daily News opines that allowing president Steve Mills to choose the Knicks’ next head coach (should David Fizdale be fired) is a silly proposition, as Mills has already failed time and time again to find the right candidate to lead the team moving forward.
  • Atkinson says the Nets are looking for new addition, veteran swingman Iman Shumpert, to fill a need with his perimeter defense, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “He fits a need right now. Perimeter defense, that’s always been his calling card. I … know him well, know the personality. He gets after it defensively. That will be his role for us.”
  • According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, at least one former Knicks player did not like how MSG fans booed his former teammate, Mavs’ forward Kristaps Porzingis. “I think everybody can think what they want but I feel bad for KP,” said Hornets’ big man Willy Hernangomez. “He’s my brother. We spent too many nights in this amazing arena. I understand what people [do]. The people always treated me good when I was here and appreciated. But I was sad when I saw that.”
  • SB Nation’s Nets Daily takes a look at how Nets rookie power forward Nicolas Claxton is set to earn additional minutes at the NBA level as a result of the recent poor play of teammate Rodions Kurucs. “We’ve got to get our best talent on the floor,” Atkinson said Friday. “I think (Claxton’s) a talented guy. We need to find a way to play him.”

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Ntilikina, Payton, Garland

Despite the stance taken by the front office since the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Knicks weren’t forced to deal their 24-year-old star last winter, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Porzingis may have made a trade request, but he had limited leverage for getting out of New York. A restricted free agent over the summer, Porzingis could have signed an offer sheet with another team that the Knicks would have had the option to match or he could have accepted New York’s one-year qualifying offer, a risky proposition considering his injury history.

Either choice would given management more time to make the changes in team culture that they have been discussing. Plus, they had the advantage of giving him more money and a longer contract than anyone else could have offered.

The Knicks’ return makes the deal look especially bad. The $70MM in cap space that the trade opened up was used on short-term contracts for complementary players after the top targets signed elsewhere. Dennis Smith Jr. has been in and out of the point guard rotation and doesn’t look like a future star. DeAndre Jordan, whom the Knicks hoped would help attract his close friend, Kevin Durant, wound up joining Durant in Brooklyn. That leaves New York with two future first-rounders as the payment for dealing what was supposed to be their foundation player.

Porzingis, who will make his first trip back to Madison Square Garden this week after facing his former team Friday, told reporters that the situation could have ended differently. “Of course, of course. Of course,” he said. “As I said, I have nothing negative to say, it’s in the past. I’m grateful for those years that I spent in New York. It’s a great experience.”

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Frank Ntilikina seems firmly established as the team’s top point guard after a breakthrough performance in Dallas, observes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The 2017 lottery pick had 14 points, six rebounds, four steals and three blocks as the Knicks grabbed a rare road victory. “Frank looked great,” Porzingis said. “… I know his work ethic, his mindset. I’m happy to see him play and play well and show the things he’s been capable of doing.
  • Ntilikina’s emergence leaves the future of the team’s other point guards in doubt, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, who will miss his sixth straight game today with a hamstring issue, is looking like a questionable signing considering his history of health problems. Smith, who rejoined the team Friday after being away 11 days following the death of his stepmother, has shot a combined 1 of 11 in his last three games.
  • With the Cavaliers in town today, the Knicks will get a look at Darius Garland, whom they were considering taking if they had been able to find a deal to move back in the draft, Berman adds in a separate story.

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.

Knicks Notes: Smith, Ntilikina, Morris, Barrett

Dennis Smith Jr. has become the scapegoat for Knicks‘ fans in an 0-3 start, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Smith turned in his third straight ugly performance last night in the team’s home opener, missing all three of his shots in 11 minutes and falling to 1-of-11 for the season. He was 3-of-17 in two preseason games after returning from a back issue. Fans booed loudly when he was in the game and started a “We want Frank” chant in the second half, referring to little-used guard Frank Ntilikina.

Smith is being singled out because he was the key piece the team received in the January trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. Porzingis has recovered from a torn ACL and is averaging 23.5 PPG in his first two games with the Mavericks. The trade also gave the Knicks enough cap room to sign two max-level free agents, but they missed on their top targets, further angering their fans.

“Our fans are passionate. I get it,’’ Fizdale said of the reaction to Smith. “The kid is obviously struggling. We’ll look at the situation and continue to adjust. (The fans) know what they like and what they want. It doesn’t do anything to my mindset. I’m going to coach this team.’’

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Fizdale told reporters that Ntilikina will eventually get a chance to earn playing time and hinted that a shooting slump is keeping him out of the lineup, Berman adds in the same piece. The 2017 lottery pick has been on the court for three total minutes this season. “It’s three games in,’’ Fizdale said. “It’s not like 20 games into the season. But other guys will get opportunities. That’s how it will work. You either perform and get it done or you’re not. (Ntilikina is) overthinking it and pressing it. He’s mentally tough and he’s struggling right now, but he’ll find his way out of it.’’
  • Marcus Morris had an unusual free agent experience this summer, verbally committing to the Spurs before switching to the Knicks when they made a better offer. However, that could have been avoided if the Celtics had tried to keep him, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “I guess that’s the business,” Morris said. “I thought I at least deserved a phone call, but it is what it is.”
  • At age 19, RJ Barrett looks ready for any challenge, including a game-deciding battle with Kyrie Irving, observes Steve Popper of Newsday.

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Fizdale, Irving, Trier

Two games into the season, the Knicks‘ point guard situation remains as confused as ever, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton earned a start Friday night after a strong performance in the season opener, but rookie RJ Barrett was used in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Barrett posted 16 points and six steals to help lead a comeback, but finished the night with five turnovers and only three assists.

“It was good. I feel like I can do that,” Barrett said of handling the point. “Coach trusts me. He has a lot of faith in me.”

Dennis Smith Jr., who appeared to be the point guard of the future when he was acquired from the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade nine months ago, played just 4:31. Frank Ntilikina wasn’t used at all.

“(Smith’s) still in a struggle,” coach David Fizdale said. “I just gotta figure out how to get him out of it. I think he’s just overthinking things a little bit, but we’ll figure it out.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale continues to work through different combinations, which should be expected on a team with nine new players, observes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. The lack of cohesion was especially apparent on defense Friday as lapses enabled the Nets to hit 15 of their first 30 shots from beyond the arc. “We have depth, we’ve just got to get them all to play on the same night and get them clicking on the same night,” Fizdale said. “But that’s going to take time obviously. We’ve had three weeks together. But the fact we have the kind of grit that doesn’t lay down, those are two playoff teams we lost to on the road that we had a chance to win those games.”
  • The Knicks-Nets rivalry appeared more heated than ever after a pivotal free agency summer for both franchises, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who were thought to be New York’s top targets, both wound up in Brooklyn, and the Nets gave away Irving jerseys last night to emphasize the point.
  • Allonzo Trier doesn’t believe Irving’s comments about taking over New York City were meant to be inflammatory, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It wasn’t about the Knicks. It wasn’t about anything like that,” Trier said. “I didn’t take anything personally. Kyrie is a really good friend of mine. We spent a lot of time (together) in the summer. Great guy.’’

Knicks Notes: Popovich, Morris, Irving, Rotation, Payton

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t just upset at Marcus Morris. He was also ticked off at the Knicks organization concerning Morris’ free agent odyssey, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. Morris backed out of a verbal agreement with San Antonio and inked a one-year, $15MM contract with New York. “Who signed him? I thought it was the Knicks that signed him,” Popovich said. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

However, Popovich has made peace with Morris, as the two embraced after the teams played each other on Wednesday. “That meant a lot. I didn’t know how he felt,” Morris said. “I spoke to him after I made my decision. So it was good to clear the air.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • While the organization may have been disheartened by Kyrie Irving‘s decision to join the Nets, coach David Fizdale wasn’t caught off-guard by the All-Star point guard’s decision, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” Fizdale said. “Guys are going to go where they feel is best for them,” he said. “He felt that that was best for him. I’m happy with the guys that we got.”
  • Fizdale admits he’s still a long way from settling on a rotation, Begley notes in the same story. “I’m sure it’s tough for them (not) being set in a rotation. At the same time, we’re not there yet,” he said. “Some teams have the luxury to know here’s my starting five, here’s my backups. Everybody can just dial into when they’re going to play every single night. But right now we don’t have that luxury.”
  • Elfrid Payton has apparently taken the lead in the starting point guard race after the opener, Marc Berman of the New York Post relays. Payton posted 11 points, eight assists and five steals with no turnovers as Dennis Smith and Frank Ntilikina struggled. Rookie RJ Barrett got the start in game one, but that experiment may be over, Berman writes. “By no means is this an indictment on anybody or stuck in stone,” Fizdale said. “I still want these guys to be fighting for that top spot.”

Knicks Notes: Point Guards, Rabb, Morris, Robinson

Nobody in the three-way battle for the Knicks‘ starting point guard spot played well enough to earn a start in tonight’s season opener, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina were all on the bench for the beginning of the game in San Antonio as coach David Fizdale opted to use rookie RJ Barrett at the point alongside Allonzo Trier.

“I just like that combination of RJ and Allonzo Trier to be out there,’’ Fizdale told reporters before the game. “The competition is still on and I’m still searching for combinations that are going to fit. Coming into this, I want to see how that looks. I’m going to keep putting it on them to really have to earn it and really force me to play you. None of this is in stone, but at the same time the competition is on.”

Payton, Smith and Ntilikina all struggled in the preseason, especially with shooting, while Trier stood out with an improved jumper. Berman suggests the decision could be seen as a slight against the front office, which signed Payton this summer and picked up Ntilikina’s fourth-year option earlier this week.

There’s more from New York:

  • Fizdale has previous experience with Ivan Rabb, who was signed today to a two-way contract, Berman notes in a separate story. Fizdale was Rabb’s first coach as a rookie in Memphis, although he was fired after 19 games. “Good kid, hard worker,” he said of Rabb. “Really skilled big. Rebounds the ball well. A high-IQ player. It will be good to get back with him and develop him.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains bitter about Marcus Morris‘ decision to back out of a commitment to San Antonio this summer and sign with the Knicks instead (video link from RJ Marquez of KSAT in San Antonio). Morris verbally agreed to a two-year, $19MM deal with the Spurs before changing his mind when New York was able to offer $15MM for one season. As expected, the San Antonio crowd booed him loudly before tonight’s game.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a look at how Mitchell Robinson was able to overcome a negative college experience and provide some hope for the future in New York.

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Miller, Brown, Tatum, Kurucs

The Knicks still haven’t settled on a starting point guard but Frank Ntilikina is “motivated” by the franchise’s decision to pick up his contract option for next season, as he told Marc Berman of the New York Post and other reporters. The Knicks took a cap hit of $6,176,578 to retain Ntilikina through the 2020/21 season. “It’s great here in New York to be part of this situation,” he said. “It’s motivation and a big excitement. It makes me willing to give even more on the court on a daily basis.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Malcolm Miller has made an NBA roster at the start of a season for the first time and he’s breathing a sigh of relief, Blake Murphy of The Athletic relays. The 26-year-old forward won a training camp battle for a spot on the Raptors’ roster. “Like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Like a huge exhale,” Miller said. “Two years of back and forth, but now it’s finally official. I feel like I’ve laid two years of groundwork, so I’m more than ready to attack it at full speed.”
  • Miller’s G League rights were traded to the Northern Arizona Suns along with the 21st pick in the G League draft for guard Jawun Evans, Murphy tweets. However, this won’t affect Miller’s status with the Raptors. They can still assign him to Raptors 905 despite not holding his G League rights because he’s on the 15-man roster.
  • The incentives on Jaylen Brown’s four-year extension include $8MM if he wins the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year award or makes one of three All-NBA teams, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. The Celtics and Brown reached an extension agreement on Monday. Another $4MM in more reachable incentives includes playing 65 or more games, the team winning 49 or more games and reaching the second round of the playoffs. As previously noted, the total guaranteed money in the deal is $103MM, but it could be worth up to $115MM.
  • The Celtics’ decision to give Brown a huge extension sends a clear signal that they’ll do the same for Jayson Tatum next year, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. That will give Boston a dynamic duo who will both be 23 years old or younger and have ample playoff experience, Blakely notes.
  • Nets forward Rodions Kurucs made a brief court appearance on Monday regarding a domestic assault charge, Andrew Denney of the New York Post reports. Kurucs was arrested in September over the June 27 incident in which he allegedly choked his ex-girlfriend. He was ordered back to court Nov. 19.

Knicks Exercise Options On Ntilikina, DSJ, Knox

2:01pm: The Knicks have made it official, announcing that they’ve picked up the 2020/21 options on Ntilikina, Smith, and Knox.

12:31pm: The Knicks will exercise Frank Ntilikina‘s fourth-year option for the 2020/21 season, reports Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). The team is also picking up its fourth-year option on Dennis Smith Jr. and its third-year option on Kevin Knox, as expected, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.

Of the three option decisions, the one on Ntilikina was the only one that was up in the air leading up to the October 31 deadline. The former eighth overall pick has been somewhat underwhelming in his first two seasons, averaging 5.9 PPG and 3.1 APG on .354/.305/.735 shooting in 121 games (21.6 MPG) for the Knicks.

However, Ntilikina had a strong showing for France in the 2019 FIBA World Cup last month and has been more aggressive on offense for New York this preseason, as Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic detailed last week. As such, the Knicks were willing to lock in his $6,176,578 cap hit for the 2020/21 season. The 21-year-old is now on track to reach restricted free agency in 2021 if he doesn’t sign an extension next year.

As for Smith and Knox, those option decision were simpler ones. Smith, who was selected one spot after Ntilikina in 2017’s draft, will count against the cap for $5,686,677 in ’20/21, while Knox will have a $4,588,680 charge.

We’re tracking all of the decisions on 2020/21 rookie scale team options right here.