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Frank Ntilikina will continue to play reserve role for David Fizdale

The Knicks coach doesn't want to mess with whatever success his young guard is having.

Frank Ntilikina of the Knicks controls the ball

Frank Ntilikina of the Knicks controls the ball during the second half against the Nets at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

CLEVELAND — While Knicks coach David Fizdale decided to shake up his starting lineup again Wednesday, inserting Kevin Knox in place of Mario Hezonja, he was not willing to push Frank Ntilikina back into a starting role right now.

Ntilikina started the first 14 games of the season, but after struggling offensively in a reserve role was benched completely for three games before returning to the rotation Saturday. He followed that up with the best offensive performance of his career Sunday, scoring a career-high 18 points and hitting all four of his three-point attempts.

Wednesday night the young point guard played 23 minutes, had 16 points and was 2-for-4 on three-pointers. 

“Right now, yeah. I don’t want to mess with him,” Fizdale said. “He’s just got back into the groove and he played two games back to back well. I always run into that with these guys when it comes to lineup changes and stuff like that. When a guy’s actually playing well in that role,  do I want to shift him? So that’s something I’ll always be evaluating, trying to find a balance with.”

Rookie challenge

To help break rookie Mitchell Robinson of his fouling habit, Fizdale has created a challenge: Pushups in practice for Robinson if he fouls with his hands down low and pushups for the coach if Robinson keeps his hands up high.

Robinson said that it has helped him already.

“Yeah, it actually has,” Robinson said. “Nobody feels like doing pushups all the time. It helps a lot. I’ve done [the pushups] like six times maybe. It’s just bad habits. It’s coming along pretty good.”

But what he enjoys most is when Fizdale has to serve the punishment.

“Coach needs to get in shape,’’ Robinson said.

Fizdale said, “I’m hoping that I’m going to look really buff by New Year's.”

Coming soon

Courtney Lee was recalled by the Knicks after playing a G League game Tuesday in Florida and will join the team Thursday for practice in Charlotte . . . Trey Burke (sprained right knee) and Lance Thomas (arthroscopic knee surgery) both worked out with the team Wednesday morning. Burke said he possibly could return by Sunday’s game in Indiana if he can get through contact drills in practice.

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