Frank Ntilikina
(Nick Wass/AP Photo)

At long last, embattled Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina appears to be nearing his return after missing a huge chunk of the season.

Danny Small

Are you old enough to remember Frank Ntilikina? OK, he hasn’t been out long enough that Knicks fans completely forgot about him, but he’s been out longer than anyone expected.

The second-year player missed more than one-quarter of the season with a lingering groin injury. For weeks, the only updates from the team were that Ntilikina was “progressing.”

The point guard has missed the team’s last 23 games, but he is cleared to practice and returned to practice with the G League Westchester Knicks according to ESPN’s Ian Begley. It’s still uncertain whether he will be able to play on Wednesday against the Utah Jazz.

With only 11 games left and an uncertain future, it’s imperative that Ntilikina plays well. His future with the team is in doubt and trade rumors have encircled the Frenchman for much of the season. Furthermore, drafting Ntilikina was one of Phil Jackson’s final move as president of the Knicks. It’s unclear how the current regime values the 6-foot-6 guard.

New York Knicks

He’s always been a strong defender with elite potential on that end of the floor, but his offense has failed to come around. In 119 career games, Ntilikina has only averaged 5.9 points and 3.1 assists. Moreover, his 35.6 percent shooting from the floor and 30.7 percent from deep are rough numbers, even for a 20-year-old.

That being said, his development, or lack thereof, falls on the Knicks as much as it falls on him. The Knicks have rarely put the ball in his hands despite the fact that Jarrett Jack started 56 games at point guard during the 2017-18 season.

Perhaps Ntilikina can return healthy and finish the season strong and solidify his place on New York’s roster moving forward. It’s been a long time coming.

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