The New York Knicks coaching staff is following through on their promise to give the younger players more opportunities.
The New York Knicks have 22 games left to play this season and a lot of different things to figure out in that time. Some want them to tank, others want them to try and compete with the younger players, but mostly everyone wants them to have a plan. They ultimately have to decide how they are going to approach their lineups in each game.
The front office and coaching staff were vocal during the All-Star Break about playing the young guys more. In Thursday night’s matchup with the Orlando Magic, they followed through on that promise.
Emmanuel Mudiay replaced Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup and the former starting point guard failed to even get off the bench. Jack is moving into more of a mentorship role for the young guys around him. Mudiay told ESPN’s Ian Begley about his desire to seize this chance. In 23 minutes, Mudiay recorded eight points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Emmanuel Mudiay on possibly starting for NYK: “I’m not going to take it for granted. I came in as a lottery pick so I was kind of handed the spot & stuff like that. So the fact that I’m in that position again it’s a blessing. Thank God for it. I just have to take full advantage.”
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 21, 2018
While Mudiay is attempting to find his footing in the starting lineup, Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina looked excellent together off the bench. Burke’s numbers from against the Magic will jump off the page, while Ntilikina’s night was a bit of a different story. Burke scored 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting while dishing out six assists. Ntilikina’s night was marked by his work on the defensive end. He came up with a few crucial plays that helped the Knicks right the ship defensively after giving up 69 first-half points. The French Prince has stated that he’s comfortable playing as the two guard and he showed it on Thursday.
Hornacek noticed the synergy between the diminutive Burke and the lengthy Ntilikina. Hornacek told Begley that he was comfortable with those two on the court together.
Jeff Hornacek was impressed by the Frank Ntilikina-Trey Burke backcourt and likes how Ntilikina defended shooting guards vs. Orlando: pic.twitter.com/akOeJzxPCD
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 24, 2018
Look for more of that pairing as the season progresses. Burke is playing in what is essentially a long tryout and Ntilikina is looking to silence some of the doubters who don’t feel he has what it takes to be successful in the NBA. They both bring something different to the table and it will be interesting to see if they can continue to play well together. Burke is a scoring point guard who can make things happen in the pick and roll, while Ntilikina is a lengthy, defensive presence that can harry opposing guards on the perimeter.
The coaching staff and front office are making a smart move to let the younger guys take the majority of the minutes down the stretch. Let’s see if they can continue to respond like they did in Orlando.
Ntilikina Knee Soreness
Getting through an 82-game season as a rookie is no easy task. Ntilikina is starting to feel some of the physical toll that rookies will typically experience. He is dealing with some knee pain in recent weeks, but according to the Hornacek and Ntilikina, there isn’t much to be concerned about. The team will be sure to monitor the pain and with the season all but over, don’t be surprised if Ntilikina gets a few games off here and there down the stretch.
Neither Frank Ntilikina nor Jeff Hornacek are concerned about the knee pain Ntilikina has dealt with occasionally in recent weeks. Ntilikina says he can play through the pain. Hornacek says here that it isn't anything to be overly worried about: pic.twitter.com/ebNENSJy6A
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 24, 2018
Other Knicks News, Stories
- It’s been a rough season thus far for Knicks fans, but Danny Small of ESNY has three positives the Knicks can take away from the first half of the season.
- With the offseason looming, ESNY’s Jonathan Macri has the Enes Kanter manifesto that you need to read.
- They passed on him in the draft, but Malik Monk was at least on the Knicks’ radar around the trade deadline. Alex Jordan of ESNY has everything you need to know.
- Danny Small of ESNY writes about another young player looking for opportunities in big man Luke Kornet.