Frank Ntilikina

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Murphy, Oubre, Toppin

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina looks at the Olympics as a chance to rebuild his reputation after a rough start to his NBA career, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The French guard was considered among the best prospects in the world when he was selected with the eighth pick in the 2017 draft. He was a modest contributor during his first three years, but had his playing time cut in half when new coach Tom Thibodeau took over.

“Not playing is not easy for a player,’’ Ntilikina said in a recent interview with the French publication L’equipe. “I would definitely like to play more. But I train all season long. And because I’m still a young player, I know I have a lot of things of my game that I can improve on in future seasons. This is what I did this season offensively in games with the Knicks as soon as I had playing time, being at my advantage over the opponent’s point guards.’’

With his 23rd birthday looming next week, Ntilikina may be ready for a fresh start. He will hit the open market when free agency begins in August, and the Knicks will have to make a $7MM+ qualifying offer to keep him restricted. Berman notes that would carry an $18MM cap hold.

For now, Ntilikina’s priority is the Olympic Games and trying to win a gold medal for France.

“My approach to the Olympics is a bit the same as the one I had for the World Cup,’’ he said. “I try to bring as much as possible to the team. It’s the Olympics, it’s not just anything, it’s something I watched every four years. Now having the chance to go with the France team is a childhood dream.’’

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • In a separate piece, Berman takes a closer look at Virginia forward Trey Murphy III, who could be in play for the Knicks with the 19th or 21st pick in Thursday’s draft. A source says Murphy had a “solid showing” in his workout for New York last week.
  • Kelly Oubre‘s desire to join a team that plays “hard-nosed defense, scrappy, fast-paced, athletic open-floor offense” may make him a good fit for the Knicks. The Warriors’ free agent forward made the comments in a recent interview with Ian Begley and Chris Williamson of SNY.tv.
  • Begley also talked with Obi Toppin about his experiences during his rookie season (video link). Toppin is doing offseason workouts with teammates RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox and Immanuel Quickley.

Celtics, Sixers, Lakers Interested In Reggie Bullock

Two Atlantic Division rivals are among the teams that may try to lure free agent swingman Reggie Bullock away from the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

A source tells Berman that the Celtics and Sixers have expressed interest in Bullock, and the Lakers may also get involved. Bullock played alongside LeBron James in L.A. during the 2018/19 season.

Bullock prefers to stay in New York, Berman adds, but he’s hoping for a three-year contract worth in the neighborhood of the full mid-level exception ($9MM+). The Knicks have Early Bird rights on Bullock, so they can go above the cap to re-sign him after using their space. They’ll likely be able to offer up to about $10.3MM for the first year, according to Berman.

Bullock became a dependable contributor during his second year with the team, starting 64 of the 65 games he played and averaging 10.9 PPG per night while shooting 41% from three-point range. However, a disappointing playoff performance may have dragged down his value.

The Knicks have other options if they don’t re-sign Bullock, although they may be much more expensive, Berman adds. Coach Tom Thibodeau is a fan of Trail Blazers guard Norman Powell, who opted out of his contract Tuesday, and New York has also expressed interest in Warriors forward Kelly Oubre.

Berman suggests the Knicks might be willing to match a minimal offer to restricted free agent Frank Ntilikina if they lose Bullock. Ntilikina didn’t play much in Thibodeau’s first season with the team, but a source tells Berman that the Knicks haven’t ruled out a possible return.

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Quickley, Ntilikina, Randle

Obi Toppin has been the Knicks‘ more productive rookie in the playoffs, while Immanuel Quickley is struggling to find his game, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Toppin is coming off a career-best 13-point outburst in Game 4, and there’s talk of playing him and Julius Randle together to help turn the series around.

“I just really feel like I’ve just been locked in, studying a lot of film, paying attention to every little detail possible that I need for each game,” Toppin said. “I feel like the more details I know on the defensive side, I feel like the offensive side will just come to me if I just play my basketball and play team basketball.”

As a lottery pick, Toppin was expected to be a difference maker right away, but Quickley, who was taken at No. 25, had the better regular season, averaging 11.4 points per game and becoming a regular part of the backcourt rotation. His shot has deserted him in the playoffs, as he’s hitting just 29.6% from the field and scoring 4.5 PPG.

“I love it when people count me out,” Quickley said. “I feel like that’s how my whole life in basketball has been, when people say you can’t do something or you’re not good enough or that’s not possible. I feel like that kind of drives our team as well. When we came into this season, everybody was expecting us to be in the lottery.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Derrick Rose will likely remain in the starting lineup for Game 5, but coach Tom Thibodeau sidestepped a question about playing Frank Ntilikina, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ntilikina has only been used for three defensive possessions throughout the entire series. “I think Derrick is proven to be a very good player in this league for a long time,’’ Thibodeau said. “As a team we have to play better. We know that. In terms of Frank, he’s an important part of the team.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic examines the adjustments the Hawks have made to slow down Randle, who averaged 37.3 PPG against them in the regular season. Randle, who is in the playoffs for the first time in his career, has been forced to deal with two and sometimes three defenders every time he catches the ball.
  • A fan accused of throwing a beer at the Knicks’ bench during Game 2 has been permanently banned from Madison Square Garden, Berman writes in a separate story.

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 SNY.tv. 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.

Fischer’s Latest: Gordon, Vucevic, Lowry, Redick, Ball, DeRozan

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Nuggets have become the favorites to pry Aaron Gordon away from the Magic, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Denver’s offer would include guard Gary Harris, a first-round pick, and either R.J. Hampton, Zeke Nnaji or Bol Bol.

Although the Nuggets seem to have the momentum, the Celtics are still “very engaged” in the process, according to Fischer. Boston’s proposed deal has involved Marcus Smart and a first-rounder, and it’s possible that a second first-round pick and the Celtics’ $28.5MM traded player exception could be used as well, with Evan Fournier also headed to Boston, says Fischer. Previous reports indicated that the C’s were looking to keep Smart out of the deal, offering a younger player in his place.

The Timberwolves, Rockets and Trail Blazers all remain interested in acquiring Gordon too.

Fischer passes on a few more trade rumors as the deadline draws near:

  • The Celtics are one of the few teams to express interest in trading for center Nikola Vucevic, but the Magic are putting a much higher price on him than Gordon. Orlando is asking for multiple first-round picks and a player who fits with their young core. Fischer expects Vucevic to stay with the Magic.
  • The Clippers, Lakers, Sixers and Heat are all still pursuing Kyle Lowry, but the Raptors‘ high price tag may prevent a deal from getting done. Fischer believes Philadelphia would have to offer two players from the group of Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey, while Miami would need to part with Goran Dragic, another large salary and either Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro. Both Los Angeles teams are limited by their lack of available draft picks.
  • J.J. Redick appears headed for a buyout as the Pelicans haven’t found a team willing to offer draft picks or prospects in return for the veteran guard. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests a return to the Sixers is possible or maybe a reunion with former teammate Chris Paul on the Suns.
  • The Knicks are interested in Lonzo Ball and have the cap space to keep him in free agency, Pincus adds. The price could be Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and possibly the Mavericks’ 2021 first-round pick.
  • Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan is also high on the Knicks‘ wish list, states A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Drummond, Robinson, Ntilikina

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for preferring veterans over young players and other future assets, but he indicated the organization might not take that approach this year, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Knicks have exceeded expectations so far, holding a 21-21 record that has them tied for sixth place in the East. Although there’s temptation to add talent to end a long playoff drought, Thibodeau suggested the team is willing to take a long-term approach.

“It’s important for us to go step-by-step and not skip over things,’’ he said. “The whole goal this year is to build a foundation and the right type of habits. Wherever that leads us, it leads us. Our players have responded. In this league, you’re always looking for player development first, then look at the draft and free agency, then trades. You never stop working in all four areas. Every day it’s how can we make the team better. That’s where our focus lies with coaches, front office and players. We’re all tied together. We’re going to do what’s best for the Knicks.’’

Berman notes that two of the most prominent names the Knicks have been tied to — Rockets guard Victor Oladipo and Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball — will be free agents this summer and may be obtainable without breaking up the young core.

There’s more from New York:

  • Andre Drummond could be worth watching if he reaches a buyout with the Cavaliers, Berman adds in the same story, but there’s “mutual disinterest” between the Knicks and Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who plays the same position as Julius Randle.
  • Center Mitchell Robinson could be back Sunday after missing 15 games with a broken hand, but he may not rejoin the starting lineup right away, Berman states in a separate story. Nerlens Noel has been effective in his place, and Robinson may return on a minutes restriction. “I want to see how that goes,” Thibodeau said. “There’s great versatility there. Eventually, he’ll get back to starting. Whether that happens right away or down the road … I’m comfortable with both guys in that role. And I’m really comfortable with Taj (Gibson) as well. That gives us great depth at that position.”
  • Frank Ntilikina, who’s on the final year of his rookie contract and will have a $15.6MM cap hold if he receives a qualifying offer, seems to be the most likely Knicks player to be traded, according to Steve Popper of NewsdayAlec Burks, Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton all have expiring contracts, but an Eastern Conference scout told Popper their trade value is limited to a second-round pick apiece.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Griffin, O’Quinn, Ntilikina

Julius Randle has become not only an All-Star this season, but the leader of a Knicks team that’s firmly in the playoff race, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. When New York’s season ended early last year, Randle went home to work on his body and his game. That preparation helped him get ready for the demands of new coach Tom Thibodeau.

Randle leads the NBA in minutes played and hasn’t missed any of New York’s 37 games. He has career-high numbers with 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game and is shooting 40.8% from three-point range after hitting just 27.7% from beyond the arc last year. He has also become more vocal in his interactions with the media.

“I definitely think I’ve grown as a leader,” Randle said. “I definitely think I’m a person on our team that leads by example with how I approach how I work. I care about my teammates. I definitely think it’s something that guys look to me every night to bring my game a certain way. I try to the best of my ability to do that. Absolutely I embrace it. I work for it. I challenge myself and push myself to be able to do it on a nightly basis. I know I still have a long way to go and I can get a lot better as well.”

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks won’t make a play for Blake Griffin, who was bought out by the Pistons this week, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle already occupies heavy minutes at power forward, and the team doesn’t want to add someone who will take playing time away from first-round pick Obi Toppin. The cross-town Nets are considered the favorites to sign Griffin.
  • There have been internal discussions about bringing back center Kyle O’Quinn, who is currently playing in Turkey, Berman adds. With starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined, the Knicks are looking for another big man to back up Nerlens Noel. O’Quinn played 29 games last season for the Sixers.
  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv spoke to representatives of two rival teams about Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina, who enjoyed a resurgence over the final five games of the first half. Injuries created an opportunity for Ntilikina, who responded by hitting eight of 12 three-point attempts over that stretch and displaying the defensive skills that prompted New York to make him a lottery pick in 2017. The two representatives agreed that if Ntilikina is traded, it’s more likely to be as part of a package, rather than by himself.

Knicks Notes: Rose, Ntilikina, Toppin, Quickley

Derrick Rose has shown Knicks fans that he can still ignite an offense, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. With Elfrid Payton injured, Rose stepped into the starting lineup Thursday and scored 18 points as New York put up 140 in a win over Sacramento.

“My confidence has always been there even though I’m not the same player, reckless or explosive player,” said Rose, who is averaging 11.8 PPG in eight games since being acquired from the Pistons. “I feel like I’m skilled. I felt like I’ve been working on my game prior to having — I mean, after all my injuries it’s about just showing it and adapting.”

Popper notes that one of the initial fears among fans was that Rose’s addition might take away minutes from rookie guard Immanuel Quickley. Instead, Rose has adopted a mentor’s role and they have often played together in the backcourt. Tom Thibodeau, who also coached Rose in Chicago and Minnesota, has watched his game progress over the years.

“I think his quickness is the same,” Thibodeau said. “And obviously I think as players get older, what they do is they get experience and they add things to their games. So he’s a lot different than he was when he was 22. And obviously, that athleticism is different now. But he also has the knowledge of all the experiences he’s been through.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Frank Ntilikina put up decent numbers Thursday after not playing in two months, but it won’t guarantee him more playing time, Popper adds in a separate story. Ntilikina posted seven points, three steals, two assists and a plus-17 rating in 23 minutes. However, Thibodeau is reluctant to expand his 10-man rotation, and Ntilikina is likely headed back to the bench when Payton returns.
  • An early injury and Julius Randle‘s breakout season have prevented Obi Toppin from making an impact as a rookie, but he may get to display his skills in the Slam Dunk Contest, Popper notes in another piece. Toppin was a prolific dunker in college and has been a fan of the event for years. “It’s been a lot of guys in the dunk contest that I’ve been watching through my life that have really good dunks,” he said. “If the time comes for me to be in it and they say I’m in the dunk contest I’ll have to do a lot of studying and hopefully come up with something nobody’s seen.”
  • The Knicks would benefit from inserting Quickley in their starting lineup, argues Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Thibodeau’s preferred starting unit has a negative net rating, but the number is much better when Quickley, rather than Payton, is on the floor with the four other starters.

New York Notes: Claxton, Ntilikina, Buyouts, Nash

Nicolas Claxton is providing a new element to the Nets, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. In his second game after recovering from a string of injuries, Claxton delivered 10 points,  four steals, three rebounds, and a block in 15 minutes against Orlando Thursday. He fills a role as an athletic, energetic big man.

“He’s somebody we believe in and think he’s got a lot of upside, continue to grow and just take it step-by-step,” Nets coach Steve Nash said  of Claxton.

We have more news on the New York City teams:

  • Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina looked surprisingly spry in his first appearance in nearly two months on Thursday, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Ntilikina had been buried on the bench, along with rehabbing a sprained knee and, more recently, being quarantined under COVID-19 contact tracing. Ntilikina received 17 minutes of action against Sacramento and delivered seven points, three steals and two assists in 23 minutes. “His defense was fantastic,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. Ntilikina is likely to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
  • Nash indicated the Nets will be active shoppers in the buyout market, Lewis tweets. A capped-out team, the Nets have been shuttling bodies in and out on non-guaranteed and 10-day contracts in order to fulfill NBA roster requirements. Brooklyn will likely seek to add depth at center.
  • Nash has gotten tougher on his team and that approach has helped the Nets reel off eight straight victories, Lewis writes in a separate piece. The coaching staff has doled out more constructive criticism and held players accountable for lapses. “I don’t know if we’re coaching them any harder, but we’re definitely trying to cut to the chase and make sure we are pointing out and improving and addressing issues,” he said.

Knicks Notes: Gibson, Ntilikina, McCollum, Live Fans

Veteran big man Taj Gibson sees a resilient quality in this year’s Knicks, which he credits to the coaching change, writes Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Gibson, who also played for Tom Thibideau in Chicago and Minnesota, believes the coach has brought a toughness to the organization that wasn’t there before.

New York nearly let a 21-point lead slip away Sunday night, but managed to hold on for a narrow win over the Timberwolves. At 15-16, the Knicks are seventh in the East and solidly in the playoff race with the All-Star break approaching.

“Our coaching staff has been drilling guys from the beginning of the summer up to this point,” Gibson said. “The preparation beginning at shootarounds has been outstanding. It’s always tough to play 48-minute games, but the way we all huddle around each other, everybody top to bottom, hangs out, works out late with each other. Everybody understands the stakes. And guys want to win.”

There’s more from New York:

  • Frank Ntilikina is out of contact tracing, but the team isn’t planning to send him to the G League for playing time, Begley adds in the same piece. “I think we’ll take a look at it as we go,” Thibodeau said. “I like Frank being here. He’s done an excellent job; he’s got a great attitude, great approach. And even though he’s not playing, he’s adding a lot to our team right now.”
  • The Knicks are “monitoring” Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who is rehabbing a broken foot, a source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. However, Jonathan Warner of NBC Sports Northwest says Portland has no plans to move McCollum and speculates it would take an offer of multiple first-round picks plus a core player to get the Blazers’ attention.
  • Sunday marked the last game of the season with no fans in Madison Square Garden, notes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Under new regulations from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 2,000 spectators will be permitted at games starting Tuesday. “Even with the fake noises, it kind of sounds like the way it sounds when I watch it on TV,’’ Immanuel Quickley said. “It’s definitely a buzz even without fans. So I’m sure with fans, it’s going to be even more lively. So I’m excited to get the fans back in the building.’’