While the Knicks got contributions from nearly every corner in their 136-134 overtime win over the Bucks on Saturday night, one player who was limited to cheering was Frank Ntilikina, who was kept out of the game because of a coach’s decision for the first time in his NBA career.
Ntilikina, who started 14 games this season, never got off the bench even though the Knicks were without Trey Burke, who suffered a sprained right knee after playing only one minute.
“Coach’s decision,” David Fizdale said. “As you could see with these guys, none of them are ever in the dungeon. He was the example of my postgame speech because if you watch our bench tonight, he was the most energetic, the first one up, the first one rooting guys on, the one making sure people knew what they were supposed to do coming out of timeouts. And that’s not easy when you’re getting a DNP. But as you know and as they know, I will come back to him in no time. [Damyean Dotson] is a perfect testament of that.”
Ntilikina has struggled with his shot of late and Fizdale has loudly supported him, insisting that he remains confident in him. But he went without a point guard at times and noted that he turned to Dotson ahead of him as a small forward, meaning that was the only spot he planned for Ntilikina in the game.
“Of course as players, everybody wants to play,” Ntilikina said. “As a great player and a great teammate, you’ve got go through the situation and bring, like I always say, I want to bring what I can bring to the team. On the bench, I’m going to bring my IQ and talk to the team. I’m going to cheer for them. I’m just going to stay positive for them. All I want is our team to be successful.
"It’s not frustration. I think it’s motivation because as a competitor, you want to be out there on the court to help your team. My job and my mindset is to keep working harder to be able to get back on the court.”