Frank Ntilikina

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Stauskas, Nets, Hayward, Fultz

After a surprisingly strong start to the season, Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina has seen his production waver in recent weeks. While scoring is not the 19-year-old’s calling card yet, his strong defense has slipped as well as he’s averaging nearly one less steal over the team’s past eight games (1.4) than he did through the first 12 (2.1).

Howie Kussoy of the New York Post writes that the rookie Frenchman is currently in a position where he is not always confident of what his role is. Head coach Jeff Hornacek acknowledged that Ntilikina is sometimes caught in between trying to be aggressive with the ball as a scorer and trying to be a playmaker.

“One of the things early was he was just looking to pass. Then we’ve tried to talk to him about being a little more aggressive, and trying to really move the ball downhill on these guys, and then I think he was maybe thinking shoot it and score,” Hornacek said. “I thought last game, the practice before that, he’s done a nice job of balancing that. Sometimes he’ll attack. Sometimes he’s looking to pass. As a young person in this league you’re trying to figure that out, ‘When are my opportunities to really attack? When is it just to make a pass?’

Through 21 games, Ntilikina is averaging 5.2 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.3 SPG.

Check out other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • When the Nets acquired Jahlil Okafor from the Sixers earlier this week, Nik Stauskas — who the Nets also acquired in the deal — flew under the radar. Stauskas had fallen out Philadelphia’s rotation and played in just six games this season. As Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily writes, Stauskas provides the Nets with a low-risk, high-reward option who has had some good stretches in the NBA.
  • After New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned the Nets’ success as a franchise after moving to Brooklyn in 2012, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the team has exceeded expectations, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.
  • Celtics president Danny Ainge confirmed that Gordon Hayward — who suffered a season-ending ankle injury on opening night — will soon ditch his walking boot as he continues to rehab, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes. For his part, Ainge believes Hayward ” wants to come faster than anybody has from this kind of injury” (Via NBC Sports Boston).
  • Sixers president Bryan Colangelo provided an update on 19-year-old Markelle Fultz, noting that the muscle imbalance in his right shoulder has progressed well. “Surface level, I would say that he’s progressing well,” Colangelo said (via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia). “He continues to focus on the PT and strength and conditioning aspect of the return. The good news is the soreness is completely gone and the muscle imbalance is gone.” Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes that Philadelphia will have a hard time fitting Fultz into the rotation once he returns.

Knicks Notes: Hardaway, Baker, Ntilikina, Anthony

Tim Hardaway Jr. was one of the offseason’s biggest surprise signings; not only because he received a four-year deal, but also because that his former team, the Knicks, signed him to a $71MM pact. Entering his fifth NBA season, Hardaway never posted more than 14.5 PPG in a single season and has never been the focal point of an offense. In a recent interview with Peter Walsh of SLAM Magazine, Hardaway admitted that the criticism of his deal has been a source of motivation.

“I have to use [criticism] as motivation,” Hardaway said. “I take it as those are your fans and they’re coming at you with that. It hurts. But at the same time, you can’t harp on that. You have to go out there and show that you deserve what the Knicks offered. At the end of the day, it’s not my fault. They came to me. I knew that if it was something big, I would have to deliver. I’ve been delivering since last season in Atlanta. I feel like I’m confident and capable of getting what I got money-wise and going out there and playing for the team and playing for the franchise and playing for the city.”

Hardaway, who is still just 25 years old, has played well in his first season back in New York. In 16 games, he has averaged a career-high 17.2 PPG and 4.4 RPG for the Knicks. The former first-round pick has played with some foot injuries this season but has otherwise been a solid secondary option behind Kristaps PorzingisWhile criticism for his contract will persist, Hardaway is confident he can prove he is worth the investment.

Check out other news from the Knicks organization below:

  • Speaking of Hardaway’s foot injury, he recently said he does not have plantar fasciitis in his foot, (via ESPN’s Ian Begley). Hardaway said he is experiencing “just intense soreness with ligaments and stuff.” The Knicks guard intends to nurse the injury and play until it is healed.
  • Ron Baker, who has not played since the team’s third regular season game due to a shoulder injury, is nearing a return, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “Ron’s almost there with the shoulder,’’ head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He practiced [Sunday]. I asked him how it was with contact, he said he tried to avoid real hard picks. He’s getting close to full contact.’’
  • In the same article, Berman writes that the Knicks’ 2017 first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina, removed himself from the Knicks’ win over the Clippers on Monday in the fourth quarter due to flu-like symptoms.
  • Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott, who were acquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and free agent signing Jarrett Jack have led the Knicks to a strong early start, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. Giving a similar take, Berman of The New York Post echoed the sentiment, writing that the Knicks’ return for their former superstar has paid dividends early on.
  • Once more, Berman of The New York Post examines the impact general manager Scott Perry has had on the Knicks and their early success this season. In an interesting tidbit, Berman cites sources who say Anthony would have accepted a trade to Portland if talks with the Rockets, Cavaliers, and Thunder fizzled.

Knicks Notes: Hardaway Jr., Ntilikina, Hornacek

The Knicks may have been onto something with Tim Hardaway Jr. all along. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, the shooting guard, whose four-year, $71MM contract was ridiculed at the time of signing, is starting to live up to his lofty contract.

Over the course of the past nine games, the 25-year-old has averaged 20.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Now, as Newsday’s Barbara Barker writes in her own feature, the swingman is stepping up as a valuable No. 2 option for the Knicks behind Kristaps Porzingis.

While the deal was initially panned when it was announced, Berman reasons that Steve Mills and the Knicks’ front office, leery of losing out on another coveted free agent, had to offer a big enough deal to discourage the Hawks from matching.

There’s more Knicks news today:

  • First-year point guard Frank Ntilikina has thrived for the Knicks on both ends of the ball. His impact thus far into his rookie campaign has been beyond what most predicted, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. “It’s great that a young guy comes into this league with more defensive principles than the offensive principles,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s hard to teach.”
  • The Knicks have more confidence in their offense now that Jeff Hornacek has been cleared to run his own plays, ESPN’s Ian Begley writes. “Our guys are feeling comfortable with what we’re running,” the coach said. “We’re going to get better at that. It’s a style most of those guys like to play. It makes it easier for them.
  • With Phil Jackson out of the picture, the Knicks’ front office is easing tension with Janis Porzingis. Marc Berman of the New York Post writes that the brother of Kristaps Porzingis, who also serves as the star’s agent, was recently seen amiably chatting with team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Hernangomez, Noah

The Knicks were expected to be among the worst teams in the league this year and they began the season with three straight losses. Since then, New York has won seven of ten contests and the team’s up-and-coming talent is confident in the long-term future of the franchise.

“We can build something great here and I’m sure we’re going to,” Frank Ntilikina said (via Ian Begley of ESPN.com).

Ntilikina believes squad has tremendous chemistry, as evidenced by Enes Kanter coming to the 19-year-old’s defense during a slight skirmish against the Cavs on Monday night.

“We’ll fight together in all our games,” Ntilikina said. “It was good to have them right here and they know I’ll be here for them. That’s just how we are.”

Here’s more from New York:

  • LeBron James took an indirect shot at Ntilikina early this week, telling reporters that No.9 overall pick Dennis Smith Jr. should be a Knick. Ntilikina, who went one spot ahead of the Mavs’ point guard, took the comments personally, as Begley relays in the same piece. “For somebody to go in the media and say something about him — or say it wasn’t about him — I mean, he took it personally. And that’s what all competitors do,” teammate Courtney Lee said.
  • Willy Hernangomez hasn’t seen much action this season, appearing in a total of seven games, and he admits that the lack of playing time has impacted his confidence, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays. “I just need a couple of games playing and my feeling will come back. I know the things I can do well. It’s been harder for me, but I just have to be patient. Things change fast,” the center said.
  • Joakim Noah was inactive in his first game back from his 12-game suspension, though he remains involved with the Knicks as the team’s “defensive captain,” Bondy adds in the same piece.“The guys have voted for some players to kind of step up and speak,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s behind the bench now so he can continue the talk defensively with the guys. I talked to him about doing that and make sure he’s not just sitting back there but he’s involved. He’s not the only [captain]. There are several guys in different roles. That’s just Jo’s role, on the defensive side.”

Atlantic Rumors: Johnson, LeBron, Stauskas, Raptors

Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson isn’t pouting about sitting out the team’s loss to the Warriors on Saturday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Johnson, who signed a one-year, $11MM contract in the offseason, was actually appreciative that coach Brett Brown forewarned him that he would not play for the first time this season.  “I can’t do anything but respect having a coach come up to you and letting you know when you are going to get ready,” Johnson told Pompey. “With me being a vet, I always stay ready.” Johnson and Richaun Holmes are sharing time as center Joel Embiid‘s backups. Johnson isn’t concerned how his lack of playing time could impact him in the free agent market next summer, Pompey adds.

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Cavaliers forward LeBron James wasn’t criticizing rookie guard Frank Ntilikina but rather taking a potshot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson with his comments regarding Mavs rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. James said over the weekend that Smith “should be a Knick,” referring to Smith going one pick after the Knicks selected Ntilikina. James clarified his remarks on Monday, emphasizing he didn’t mean to disparage Ntilikina’s ability. Ntilikina still apparently took offense to James’ comments, giving the perennial All-Star a shove during their teams’ game on Monday night, the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney tweets.
  • The Sixers will be without backup guard Nik Stauskas for at least a week. He’s out with a sprained right ankle, Pompey tweets, and will be reevaluated in 7-10 days. That leave the Sixers a little thin in the backcourt. Jerryd Bayless is out indefinitely with a wrist injury.
  • The Raptors’ offensive issues have led to poor transition defense, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star notes. The Raptors have made just 33.5% of their 3-point attempts while hoisting up an average of 31.1 per game. That leads to long rebounds and poor floor balance, a major reason why the Raptors rank 27th by allowing an average of 13.4 fast-break points per game, Smith adds.

Atlantic Notes: Powell, Billups, Ntilikina

The Raptors may be without forward Norman Powell following Sunday’s matchup with the Celtics. A TSN report says that the third-year swingman left the arena on crutches after sustaining a hip pointer but no further details are available at this time.

In 11 games with the Raptors this season, the 24-year-old has averaged 9.0 points and 2.2 assists per game, both modest improvements over his 2016/17 figures.

Shortly after the conclusion of the game, one in which Powell played just seven minutes prior to the injury, the Raptors recalled Alfonzo McKinnie from their G League affiliate.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Not surprisingly, some players on the Knicks aren’t fond of LeBron James suggesting that the club should have drafted Dennis Smith Jr. over Frank Ntilikina. “This is my rookie. This is my team. This is my organization. I cannot just let [James] disrespect [Ntilikina] like that,” Enes Kanter told Fred Kerber of the New York Post. “Frank’s doing an unbelievable job. Every day he’s working really hard.”
  • The Sixers can take pride in the fact that NBA champion and former MVP Stephen Curry is fond of their young players. “These are young guys coming in and doing amazing things. It will be fun to get to know them on the court. They’re tough. Their story is great for the league,” Curry told Chris Haynes of ESPN.
  • For three days this week, Chauncey Billups shadowed Knicks general manager Scott Perry, Marc Berman of ESPN writes. The former Pistons guard has been flagged as a future executive and was even offered the Cavaliers‘ GM job over the course of the summer. Billups’ relationship with Perry dates back to when the guard was in high school.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Ntilikina, Jack

The Knicks have their first win of the season in the books after crushing the Nets at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Now, the real challenge begins for the team’s franchise linchpin, Kristaps Porzingis, as the Knicks face the powerhouse Cavaliers. Marc Berman of the New York Post opines that a strong showing against an elite team — despite Cleveland losing three of its last four games — is imperative for Porzingis.

Porzingis averaged just 11.3 PPG in four games against the Cavaliers last season. Thus far this season, Porzingis has post 30+ points in three of the Knicks’ first four games. The Latvian forward realizes that a strong performance against the defending Eastern Conference champions would be a great step forward.

“Cleveland is Cleveland,’’ Porzingis said. “They’re have a lot — LeBron — and it’s always tough to play against them. Especially me, I haven’t had great games or we as a team against Cleveland. Hopefully, we can play the same way defensively against them and have a possibility of winning.’’

There’s more news surrounding the Knicks:

  • Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek is concerned about pushing rookie guard Frank Ntilikina too hard after his early season struggles, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Ntilikina, 19, looked great in his MSG debut against Brooklyn on Friday, but an ankle injury forced him to miss several games to open the season. “If he earns that starting spot, fine. But we have to keep an eye on him, with the little bumps and bruises that he has had, to not throw him to the wolves,” Hornacek said.
  • Veteran Jarrett Jack stepped in for fellow veteran Ramon Sessions to start against the Nets. Jack had an efficient performance, posting eight points, five assists, and seven rebounds the night before his 33rd birthday. As Marc Berman of the New York Post writes, Jack could step into the role of starter with Sessions being cut once Joakim Noah‘s suspension ends.

Mills: Knicks Won’t Trade Ntilikina Or Hernangomez

The Knicks consider Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez part of their future and don’t plan to include either in a trade for Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Team president Steve Mills conveyed those sentiments today in a meeting with reporters in Cleveland, effectively quashing speculation that the Knicks might be involved in the chase for Bledsoe.

Ntilikina has been limited by injuries and Hernangomez has seen his playing time cut because of a logjam at center, but Mills said both are considered valuable components going forward. He added that coach Jeff Hornacek approached this season the right way by making Hernangomez work for his playing time. “This is part of Willy’s development,’’ Mills said. “He’s a guy who’s going to be with us [at least] the next three years and we have a lot of time to work with him, and he’s going to be part of who we are.”

There’s more from Mills’ session with the media:

  • Even though the Knicks are off to a 1-3 start following a winless preseason, no thought has been given to a coaching change. Mills pledged that “Jeff, [GM] Scott [Perry] and I are in this together,” although he stopped short of guaranteeing that Hornacek will be safe for the entire season. “We told him to focus on getting the team better and finding ways to reduce the turnovers and make sure we’re improving defensively,” Mills said of a recent meeting with Hornacek. “That’s what our goal was. We didn’t focus on the record. Our focus is how we’re improving over the course of the season. If we do all the things from a defensive standpoint, wins will come out of that. I do believe it’s getting better.”
  • The organization is stressing stability in the wake of the chaotic reign of former team president Phil Jackson, who was fired over the offseason. Mills doesn’t believe it would be healthy to make another significant move so soon. “We need to make sure we’re doing as a team and doing the things we said we were going to do over the summer,” he said. “As long as we’re doing those things, we’ll continue to build this group. Stability is important for this group. We haven’t had a lot of it here.”
  • Despite the injuries, the organization has been impressed by Ntilikina, the eighth selection in this year’s draft. “He’s not a flashy player but does the right things, plays solid defensively, willing to challenge guys right from the start,” Mills said. “The way he played, with the style he played, was what we saw when we scouted him. … “We’re committed to him and his development. What we’re trying to do with this team, it centers around guys like Frank, KP, draft picks moving forward.”
  • The Knicks will have to make a roster move next month when Joakim Noah‘s suspension expires. They signed two veteran point guards over the offseason in Ramon Sessions and Jarrett Jack, and Mills said the team would like to keep both. “We always knew we needed veterans to help support Frank,’’ he explained. “Was that going to be Ramon as starter? Jarrett as starter? They both bring different things to the table. Jarrett did a great job of calming things down. Ramon brings different things to the table. They both mentor Frank in different ways. We feel we need guys like that to bring Frank along.’’

New York Notes: Hornacek, Ntilikina, Mozgov

A new management group is in place for the Knicks in the wake of Phil Jackson‘s departure in June, with Steve Mills having been promoted to the top job and Scott Perry brought in to have a significant voice in basketball decisions. Over the last few months, Mills and Perry have been making changes typical of a new front office, hiring or demoting executives and scouts, and retooling the roster by trading longtime star Carmelo Anthony.

However, the front office has yet to make any real changes on the sidelines, where head coach Jeff Hornacek continues to run the show. As Ian Begley of ESPN.com details, Knicks decision-makers want to see how Hornacek performed this season with Jackson no longer around to influence the team’s on-court decisions and systems. While Mills and Perry aren’t expecting the club to be a contender, they’d like to see improvement on defense and a strong effort from the current roster.

So far, the on-court results for Hornacek haven’t been good. After an 0-5 preseason, the Knicks are the NBA’s only winless team in the regular season, at 0-3. Additionally, as Begley details, it appears there are some players unfamiliar with some of the team’s plays. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), meanwhile, hasn’t been impressed with the Knicks’ effort.

While Hornacek seems likely to get a longer leash in New York than Earl Watson – fired after three games – did in Phoenix, Perry “doesn’t want to waste time with the wrong people in place,” people familiar with his thinking tell Begley. If the Knicks’ lackadaisical showings continue, Hornacek’s seat figures to get very hot.

Here’s more from out of New York:

  • Knicks first-round pick Frank Ntilikina has been limited to just eight minutes played so far this season due to an ankle injury, but he’s set to return to the court on Friday against the Nets, per Barbara Barker of Newsday. “I’m excited,” Ntilikina said. “First game at the Garden in the regular season. So yeah, I can’t wait to go out there.”
  • Nets center Timofey Mozgov, in the second year of lucrative $64MM contract, is looking to expand his game and boost his value by developing a three-point shot. Scott Cacciola of The New York Times has the details.
  • Much has been made of the positive Nets culture under GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson. Now, as Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily writes, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate – the Long Island Nets – is attempting to emulate that culture.
  • Earlier today, we passed along details on a major change to Nets ownership and published our recap of the Knicks‘ offseason.

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Ntilikina, Nets, Raptors

Gordon Hayward‘s gruesome ankle injury on opening night was not the storyline people expected coming out LeBron James first head-to-head matchup against Kyrie Irving. Nonetheless, the Celtics‘ prized free agent signing is expected to miss the remainder of the season. While it is not impossible that Hayward returns at the end of the season, him going through rehab successfully is the main goal.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today chronicled what Hayward’s journey back to the hardwood will entail. In earnest, Hayward can expect to be off a basketball court for about six months until he is cleared for basketball-related activities. After surgery, the Celtics forward will not be allowed to put weight on the damaged ankle about 4 to 6 weeks as he gets around with crutches and/or a knee scooter. Zillgitt further explains that initial stages of rehab will include soft-tissue intervention, manual therapy, and aquatic therapy.

About eight weeks in, Hayward should be cleared for light jogging, another checked off milestone. The Celtics did not release a timeline for Hayward returning and it was for good reason, Robert DiGiacomo, the director of the sports rehabilitation center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, told Zillgitt. “We try not to be beholden to timeline,” DiGiacomo said. “Achieving functional milestones is the most important thing.”

Check out other news tidbits around the Atlantic Division:

  • Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks‘ first-round pick this season, has been mentioned as part of a hypothetical trade package for Suns‘ point guard Eric Bledsoe. While reports indicate the Knicks do not want to part with Ntilikina for Bledsoe, the 19-year-old Frenchman’s sole focus is on returning to the court from an ankle injury, Newsday’s Al Iannazzone writes.
  • Aleksandar Vezenkov, the Nets‘ second-round pick (57th overall) this year told Bulgarian media that team officials told him he could be in Brooklyn as soon as next season, per Net Income of NetsDaily. Vezenkov, 22, is a European stash for the Nets who general manager Sean Marks labeled an “elite shooter.”
  • After being swept by the Cavaliers in the playoffs last season, the Raptors‘ offseason strategy was expected to include a lot of changes — and while Toronto didn’t blow up its roster, the team did make significant changes. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri explained the team’s moves to Chris Mannix of The Vertical. “I think some of the changes we made were radical,” Ujiri said. “We lost Cory Joseph. Patrick Patterson. P.J. Tucker. Those guys were pretty good players. For us to make a change there, to put our young guys on the court, to give them this platform to perform, I think it’s somewhat of a radical change.”
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