GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Frank Ntilikina’s mother will be there. His brother will be there. Oh, and 40 or so of his closest friends also will be in London on Thursday to watch him play his first NBA game in Europe.
Ntilikina, who grew up in Strasbourg, France, has scrambled to get nearly 50 tickets to the regular-season game between the Knicks and the Washington Wizards at O2 Arena.
“I have a lot of friends,” Ntilikina said. “They support me in every step I make here. Once they found out I was playing in London, they were excited about coming to see me. It’s a blessing for me to play there and have my friends coming to watch the game. I am kind of bringing the NBA feelings to them and then enjoying our time together.”
The timing of the game couldn’t be better for Ntilikina, who returned to action against the 76ers on Sunday after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. Ntilikina played a solid 27 minutes off the bench, pairing eight points with six assists.
“Personally, it was an interesting game. I was really aggressive out there,” he said. “Getting to the paint and trying to find my teammates and making plays trying to get to the rim. The improvement I made on this part, I’m going to keep building on it and trying to get better.”
The Knicks left for their trip after practice Monday and did not plan to practice Tuesday. With the long flight and the time difference — it tends to be more difficult to fly east than fly west — the Knicks are making some extra preparations to acclimate themselves to playing on another continent.
Coach David Fizdale said the players would wear compression tights on the plane and would be given special glasses to block out the light to make it easier to sleep. The Knicks want to immediately get their players on London time.
“We’re going to sleep on the flight, because once we land, the science says we should stay up,” Fizdale said. “Once we land, we’re going to stay up and do a yoga session to get their bodies waked up. Then we will keep them up the whole day so we stay on the schedule and fall asleep at the right time.”
Fizdale said the team will do some sightseeing together, but mostly do it by bus. He added that he is not terribly worried about his players spending too much time out on the town.
“These guys, a lot of times they aren’t running around a lot,” Fizdale said. “They would rather be playing Fortnite.”
Notes & quotes: Enes Kanter appears to have recovered from his multi-hamburger cheat day. Kanter, who missed two games because of an illness, practiced with the team Monday. Kanter, who has been the focus of much trade speculation, will not be joining the team in London because he has safety concerns stemming from his opposition to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan . . . Mitchell Robinson is expected to practice in London and could be available to play . . . The Knicks announced the signing of guard Kadeem Allen to a two-way contract. The 6-3, 200-pound Allen is averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 assists and 5.2 rebounds in 30.7 minutes in 25 games for Westchester this season. He joined the Knicks’ G League team after appearing in two preseason games and being waived by the Knicks on Oct. 13. Allen and former Stony Brook star Jameel Warney each scored 22 points Monday night in Westchester’s 124-113 loss to Salt Lake City.