While the rest of the Knicks were warming up and readying for Thursday night's game, Frank Ntilikina was lifting weights and readying to put on a suit again.
Ntilikina has been sidelined for more than a month, last playing Jan. 27, when he suffered a strained groin. While he has begun to make progress, he remains out of action and uncertain when he will be back.
“Surprised, no, I don’t know if it’s the word,” Ntilikina said. “I’m just sad not being out there with my guys. Of course as a basketball player, you just want to play. All the group is trying to get better out there. I just want to be out there and help them and help myself get better. But I’m injured, so I’m just doing the most I can do off the court, trying to get better, get my body right and also get better at what I can do off the court.”
He has begun running in recent days and said he will join the team on the upcoming West Coast trip. But he doesn’t have an answer about when he will be able to play.
“Yeah, you’ve got to be really cautious about it,” he said. "You’ve got to treat it well. So that’s all we’re doing on a daily basis. I trust the training staff and all the staff to treat it well. We’re 100 percent doing everything we can do every day to do it.
“I’m with the team every day. I’m with the team at every practice, every film session. Like I said, I’m not on the court with the guys, but I’m on the side talking to them. I’m just trying to do as much as possible."
Ntilikina, who has struggled to get a chance to handle the point guard spot for extended minutes and games in his two seasons, had a chance this time because Emmanuel Mudiay was injured Jan. 23. But Ntilikina followed him to the sideline, and four days after he was hurt, the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr., who has taken over the starting spot. Coach David Fizdale said that when Ntilikina returns, he’ll likely be playing off the ball.
“You never want a guy to have to keep missing because you can’t get into a rhythm,” Fizdale said. “And so that’s why I really felt for him. There’s moments where he’s playing well and then he starts to feel [lousy] and he’s out, and he’s just kind of bounced around. But hopefully this time around we can get him back on the court and he can do some stuff for us to end the year.”