GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Kristaps Porzingis remains on the Knicks’ roster and has a new guard to pass him the ball.
Phil Jackson, who fielded offers for Porzingis leading up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft, used the No. 8 pick on Frank Ntilikina (pronounced nee-lee-KEE-nuh).
Jackson said he liked the 6-5, 190-pound Ntilikina’s size and aggressiveness on defense. The French combo guard is only 18, so he will need time to grow and develop, but Jackson hopes he can contribute right away.
“I wanted a productive player in this draft,” he said. “We wanted someone who could be able to get out there on the floor and help us out. When you’re drafting in this lottery selection, you want a player to be out there playing for your team.
“We’ll take whatever his advancement is as a player. If he has to grow into a role and come off the bench and become a guy that learns how to play the game, that’s fine. He’s capable of doing that.”
Jackson wouldn’t address the major development from Wednesday: that the Knicks were talking to teams about Porzingis.
“This isn’t the time to talk about that,” he said. “This is the time to talk about our draft pick.”
The Knicks reportedly spoke with the Celtics and the Suns in hopes of getting high up in the lottery to take Kansas forward Josh Jackson, who went fourth to Phoenix.
During an interview with MSG Network on Wednesday, Jackson essentially said he would move Porzingis for the right price. It’s evident that he is upset that Porzingis blew off his exit meeting in April. A league source said it was because Porzingis was frustrated over the direction of and the dysfunction in the franchise. Jackson also made it clear that he wanted a significant return for a player many think is a future All-Star.
So Jackson reportedly asked the Celtics for Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, the No. 3 overall pick and the Nets’ pick next season. The Celtics turned that down.
When pushed further on the Porzingis talks, Jackson said, “You always have to stay open to what advantageous thing is going to happen, what’s going to go on out there in the NBA that gives you an advantage.”
The Knicks must fix their relationship with Porzingis, but that wasn’t on Jackson’s mind on Thursday night.
They selected 6-5 Damyean Dotson, a shooting guard from Houston, with the 44th pick and 6-4 Ognjen Jaramaz, a point guard from Serbia, with the 58th pick. Dotson made 44.3 percent of his three-pointers as a senior.
Jackson made it seem as if it had been difficult to decide on Ntilikina, although the Knicks scouted him extensively.
Kentucky guard Malik Monk and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. also were available, and they might be more NBA-ready. But Ntilikina has played professionally the past three years for Strasbourg in the top French league, and he is a better fit for the triangle offense because he can play both backcourt positions.
“It was a pick that we had to think about, argue about as a staff, discuss merits,” Jackson said. “We like the size of this young man. We like his aptitude for the game, athleticism, actually the ability to incorporate himself in a winning type of a situation. Felt he had a real good feel for his team and how to play with guys.
“I think the big thing that we liked about it, he’s got size. Our game is really a lot about length and about activity. One of the things we have to have is a defensive presence.”
The Knicks apparently like international players. Ntilikina, born in Belgium and raised in Strasbourg, will be the fourth on their roster, joining Porzingis (Latvia), Willie Hernangomez (Spain) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Lithuania).
When Ntilikina was asked what he brings to the Knicks, he replied, “A lot of hope.”
Ntilikina, who took a red-eye back to France to play in the deciding game of the French League Championships, described himself as “a great defender.” Jackson said that was a big factor in taking him.
“It has a lot to do with it,” Jackson said. “He’s upcourt playing full-court defense. He’s aggressive. He likes to do that. He thinks that’s a big part of who he is.”
Still, Jackson wouldn’t rule out getting a veteran lead guard or even bringing back Derrick Rose. “We’re listening,” Jackson said after acknowledging that Ntilikina’s age is “a concern.”
“We know this is a project-type of atmosphere where we have to build a player that is going to develop,” Jackson said. “We hope he jumps out and helps our team this year.”
Team: Strasbourg (France)
Key Stats: Averaging 5.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists for his French team.
Comment: The 18-year-old Ntilikina is a big guard who can play both backcourt positions, making him a good fit for the triangle. He has a 7-foot wing span and is an aggressive defender.