Knicks draft pick Frank Ntilikina sits out practice with sore knee
ORLANDO, Fla. — Frank Ntilikina stood on the side with ice wrapped around his right knee as the Knicks’ summer league team went over some plays at the end of practice.
No one needs practice more than Ntilikina, the Knicks’ first-round pick and perhaps their point guard of the future. But his participation has been limited after he banged knees in his final game with his French team last week and suffered a bruised knee.
Ntilikina, whom the Knicks took with the eighth pick in last week’s draft, didn’t practice Thursday. He and the Knicks don’t think it’s serious, and he hasn’t undergone any tests.
“I started practice [Wednesday] and then we felt together better for me to rest and get a couple of days off,” Ntilikina said. “We will see how it goes the next day.
“Bumped knee. Sore knee. Nothing crazy, but we played a lot of games in France — more than college games. I was just pretty tired and this happened.”
It’s unclear whether Ntilikina, 18, will be able to play in the Knicks’ summer league opener tomorrow. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said there’s no rush, but he still hasn’t seen Ntilikina play live.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do with that size and everything else,” Hornacek said.
The 6-5 Ntilkina didn’t work out for any teams before the draft because his French team, Strasbourg, reached the French League finals. Game 5 was Friday, the day after the draft.
Ntilikina took a redeye flight after the draft and returned to France to play in the deciding fifth game, which his team lost.
Former Knicks president Phil Jackson said he picked Ntilikina because of his size, defensive ability and fit for the triangle offense. Now that Jackson is gone, the Knicks are expected to run more pick-and-rolls. But Ntilikina said the offense the Knicks are running in summer league is “close” to the triangle, with a lot of movement and cutting.
Ntilikina said he can play in any style. The way the NBA game is played now, his size, length and the fact that he can guard and play multiple positions makes him a good fit.
“I think I could fit in a lot of games,” Ntilikina said. “If I don’t, I will just work on my game to get better and better, just to fit. But I think that the player I am just can fit to a lot of things.”
Ntilikina thanked Jackson for drafting him and said he enjoyed the few conversations they had. Ntilikina also has been texting with Kristaps Porzingis. He said Porzingis, from Latvia, reached out to him to welcome him to the team.
“Yeah, we sent texts,” Ntilikina said. “I know he’s working on his game, working on his strengths to prepare for the European championships. It’s nice for him to text me.”
It’s too soon to know what Ntilikina’s role will be with the Knicks or how much he will play. Hornacek said he has made sure to talk to Ntilikina and teach him, and he has been impressed with how the teenager has been soaking up everything.
“He’s a very smart kid,” Hornacek said. “We’ve thrown a lot of things at these guys. Yesterday during the second practice I said, ‘Frank, I’m going to give you a written test now. I have some courts and you have to draw out all these plays.’ He goes, ‘I’m ready.’
“That’s kind of the word on him is that he picks things up really fast. If he is able to play any of these summer league games without practicing, goes out there and runs it, you know he’s a pretty smart player.”
Hornacek said he never gave Ntilikina the test, and that he’s not concerned about whether he plays in the summer league.
“If he can go, great. We’ll get him in a couple times just to get his feet wet,” Hornacek said. “But if he doesn’t, that’s not a big deal. We have plenty of time. He’ll be back in New York working pretty much the rest of the summer.”