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Would Frank Ntilikina have improved Knicks' defense vs. Nets?

The Knicks' Frank Ntilikina warms up before a

The Knicks' Frank Ntilikina warms up before a game against the Cavaliers on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Elsa

The Knicks were almost single-handedly beaten by Kyrie Irving Monday as he put up 40 points against a procession of Knicks’ defenders. But one player who never got a chance to try to slow him was the guard regarded as the best defender on the team.

Frank Ntilikina, who has struggled to find a place for himself in New York’s rotation throughout his tenure with the team, has still impressed with his defensive ability. But he never got off the bench Monday — a common occurrence since Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton returned from illness and injury.

"You’re thinking about all the possibilities," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You do that going into the game knowing that, OK, when you have a player like that — they have multiple players like that — you have to think about, you could have foul trouble, you could have a lot of things that could occur during a game. So you think about all the possibilities. Who could guard him? And you prepare for that. You wouldn’t hesitate to use him. You can also change positionally. You can put more size on [Irving]. We tried to do it schematically through double teams and that sort of thing, but you’re always thinking about that."

On the other end


Immanuel Quickley has, like many rookies, a lot to learn defensively. But he has played with a veteran’s confidence on the offensive end. One of his most potent weapons has been his floater in the lane, but even that has begun to turn into a struggle as teams have scouted and planned for him. But Thibodeau said he doesn’t want to see him change his approach.

"I actually like the shot profile," he said. "The floater is a big part of the game. I think he’s got one of the best ones in the league. There’s going to be ebbs and flows to the season. As long as he’s taking the right shot. His shot selection is very good. Just continue to work. He’s going to get better and better as time goes on. He’s a great worker and student of the game. He adds a lot to our team."

Hang up 90s jerseys

In response to a question about Charles Oakley claiming on a podcast that the Knicks offered to retire his jersey as a way to bring an end to the trouble between the organization and the former key contributor, an offer he spurned, Thibodeau had a definitive thought.

"In terms of Oak and those guys, I love the 90s teams," Thibodeau said. "So I’m for all those guys having their jerseys retired."

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