Hornacek: Knicks believe in Ntilikina despite acquisitions of Mudiay, Burke
ORLANDO, Fla. — Jeff Hornacek says the in-season acquisitions of Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke aren’t an indication that the Knicks don’t believe in rookie Frank Ntilikina.
Hornacek said management “is trying to get as much talent on the team as possible” and “guys can lend different things.” He hopes the three guards will push each other to become better players.
“You look at Frank right now and he’s a great defender for a 19-year-old kid,” Hornacek said. “The offense will come — his speed and strength, all that stuff. You can’t expect a lot more from a 19-year-old kid. So he’s been great.
“But you get a guy like Trey, he gives you instant scoring off the bench. He can do that. Then you make the trade for Emmanuel. Let’s see what he can do. He’s got a combination of being able to get into the lane with a bigger body.”
Burke had 26 points and six assists in 30 minutes off the bench in the Knicks’ 120-113 victory over Orlando on Thursday night.
Mudiay, acquired two weeks ago, was in the Knicks’ starting lineup for the first time, and Ntilikina could start at some point. The plan for the final 23 games is for the three young guards to play more. All three were lottery picks and are 25 or younger.
“These three guys should be pushing each other, every day in practice, every day in the games,” Hornacek said, “and not compete against each other but just make themselves the best they can be, and then things shake out.”
Ntilikina has been dealing with right knee tendinitis for more than a month, and Hornacek said that’s part of the reason his playing time had been cut recently. He said he doesn’t know if Ntilikina can consistently play 30 minutes a night with the pain. Ntilikina said he can. “It’s still here,” he said. “It is what it is. But it’s not going to stop me from playing.”
Ready for reduced minutes
Hornacek said he already has spoken to Jarrett Jack about the changing of the point guard. He will speak to other veterans, including Courtney Lee, about his minutes decreasing so the Knicks can look at youngsters.
Lee said he understands “a hundred percent” but is disappointed that the Knicks won’t be competing for a playoff spot. “It’s definitely tough, frustrating,” he said. “We had a goal coming into the season to make the playoffs. We competed throughout the year. We gave ourselves a good chance but kind of fell short along the way. It’s definitely tough. So now you just try to turn that focus into now developing the young guys and just try to win as many games as possible.”
Hornacek will play two of the three young point guards together at times and expects the veterans to be professional. “Whenever they’re out there, they got to play the right way and play hard,” he said. “We’re still trying to win games. They’re supposed to continue to help us grow.’’