After his first two seasons with the New York Knicks, Frank Ntilikina is entering a make-or-break season in year three.
Ntilikina is no stranger to criticism but that hasn’t limited his confidence going into the third year of his short NBA career. While watching his teammates play in summer league, Ntilikina, who spoke with Ian Begley of SNY, discussed his current feelings about the organization and his career.
“I’m happy to be a Knick,” Ntilikina told reporters at the Thomas & Mack Center before New York’s overtime loss to Phoenix. “I still take as much as I can get from every situation that I can. I’m in their jersey. I’m happy to be a Knick. I’m happy to be here. I’ll work very hard to make this situation successful.”
Depending on who you talk to, Ntilikina is either a diamond in the rough who hasn’t been given the opportunity to shine, or a vastly overrated defender who can’t shoot. Last season, the Frenchman averaged just 5.7 points per game on 33% shooting from the field. Limited by injuries, Ntilikina started some games at point guard early in the season, but head coach David Fizdale eventually favored Emmanuel Mudiay for that role.
Yet, despite the adversity, Ntilikina seems resolute in his preparation for this upcoming season as he discussed his summer workouts.
“[The workouts] have been going great. I’ve been there working out, focusing on getting back healthy and improving. It’s been going well so I’m happy about it,” Ntilikina said Sunday. “I’m trying to get into a good rhythm. I’m healthy. The summer is going — I’m working a lot. I’m happy with where I am right now. So I have to keep on working my best to improve to be the best player I can be at the end of the summer.”
A healthy Ntilikina could be important for a Knicks team that finished near the bottom of the league in defensive rating last season. Furthermore, if Ntilikina can become, at the very least, a reliable shooter when he’s open, he may see time in a crowded backcourt that features players like Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr.
Personally, I’m pulling for Ntilikina. His skill set is very complementary to high usage players. And if this team ever becomes good, you’re going to need role players like Ntilikina. At this point, it’s up to him. If he can’t somehow crack the rotation and contribute on a consistent basis, then it’s likely that his future with the Knicks, and possibly in the NBA, will be in jeopardy.