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Knicks lose Frank Ntilikina to injury before halftime vs. Heat

Knicks' Frank Ntilikina, bottom, steals the ball from

Knicks' Frank Ntilikina, bottom, steals the ball from Miami Heat's Kelly Olynyk during the first half of the NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

The Knicks, already without Emmanuel Mudiay for what is expected to be two weeks because of a left shoulder strain, lost Frank Ntilikina late in the first half with a sore groin Sunday night, and he did not return.

Ntilikina figured to get an opportunity for bigger minutes with Mudiay out. He started Friday and again Sunday against Miami. He had six points and four assists in 15 minutes before heading to the locker room.

Ntilikina played well early in Brooklyn on Friday before being saddled with foul trouble. “I really thought he started off great  and I thought the foul trouble kind of knocked him out of rhythm,” coach David Fizdale said before Sunday's game. “He was fighting to get it back but he kept picking up a foul, picking up a foul. But the start to the game, I thought it was fantastic.”

Kanter soap opera goes on

In the latest round of ''he said, he said,'' Fizdale said he has relayed the realities to Enes Kanter of what his role is and exactly why.

Kanter said after his second straight DNP Friday in Brooklyn, “I wish that he [would] communicate with me. I’m seeing [him] every day, but he does not say a word to me. I wish. We are grown men. He could just come up to me and say, ‘You’re not fitting our whatever, you’re not fitting what we’re doing.’ I would just go, ‘OK, Coach, I’m just going to practice and try to get better and try to make my teammates better.’ He has not communicated with me anything yet.”

But Fizdale countered that argument, insisting that he has been up front with the center, who did not play for a third straight game Sunday against the Heat.

“Yeah, and I’ve really tried to communicate face-to-face with him every step of the way,” Fizdale said. “Even when — it was Milwaukee, actually, after Christmas when we changed the lineup when we went out and I brought him off the bench. Right there, I tried to communicate that well to him. After London, when we got back, Mitchell [Robinson] was back healthy and so I knew that was a moment where he wasn’t going to be playing a lot, so I brought him in and communicated where we were moving towards and the direction we were going in.

“Even recently in shootaround before Brooklyn and today — I’m going to keep communicating to him. That’s a big part of what we do. So I’m never going to shy away from that. I never want these guys to feel like they don’t know what’s going on. So I go face-to- face with them. I’m going to continue to do that.”

Asked to clarify if he    actually had gone face-to-face and told Kanter, Fizdale said  he had addressed the team as a whole.

“In that moment I made sure I addressed, reiterated his role in front of the team and that this is where we are,” he said. “But don’t fall into the web of what [media] can end up creating with frustration. But I’m going to keep doing that. Whether it’s just me and him, or me and other people, whether it’s him and our team.”

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