Take a trip down memory lane with these former New York Knicks who are showing out at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
If you’re new around here, I do a lot of 2019 FIBA World Cup coverage. These are the biggest games of Frank Ntilikina‘s career and most New York Knicks fans are focused solely on the 21-year-old French guard.
However, there are a handful of former Knicks hiding in plain sight at the World Cup. Of the five players, three are from the bygone era of Phil Jackson. The other two were mixed up in the infamous Carmelo Anthony trade way back when.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo -- 2 Games Played
Ah, yes! Who could forget when the Knicks drafted Thanasis Antetokounmpo in the second round of the 2014 draft. Coincidentally, that was just before his brother, Giannis, started to show some real star potential.
Naturally, Knicks fans felt that Thanasis was destined to follow in his brother’s footsteps. That hasn’t happened quite yet. Thanasis played two games and a total of six minutes in his career for the Knicks. He recently signed a two-year contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.
At the World Cup, Giannis’ older brother is averaging 6.0 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assists off the bench. Greece is still alive, but with a Saturday matchup against Team USA, the Antetokounmpo brothers have their work cut out for them in the second round of group play.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas -- 69 GP
Who could forget Kuz? Before the Los Angeles Lakers had Kyle Kuzma, the Knicks had Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The 6-foot-9 small forward had some fun moments with the Knicks during the 2016-17 season. He notched a career-high 19 points twice during that season, but that would be the high point of his career in New York.
In 2017-18, Kuz was the casualty of a roster crunch after failing to really break into then-head coach Jeff Hornacek’s rotations. Hailed as a sharpshooter from deep, Kuzminskas only shot 32.1% from downtown during his career as a Knick.
Kuz is coming off the bench for a historically strong Lithuanian outfit. He’s averaging 7.7 points per game and he’s 3-for-6 from downtown in three games.
The Lithuanians will play the French on Saturday. A close loss to Australia in the first round of group play puts Kuz and Lithuania in a precarious position. A loss to France and a Boomers win over the Dominican Republic would end Lithuania’s quarterfinal hopes.
Willy Hernangomez -- 98 GP
For a while, many Knicks fans believed Willy Hernangomez was going to be the third Gasol brother. He was a back-to-the-basket big man from Spain, so it’s understandable why the connection was made.
Unfortunately, Hernangomez never turned into Pau Gasol 2.0. The Knicks eventually traded the Spaniard to the Charlotte Hornets for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. With how bad the Hornets project over the next two seasons, those could become highly valuable assets for New York.
On a stacked Spanish roster, Hernangomez is averaging 5.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 12 minutes off the bench.
Spain has already clinched a berth in the quarterfinals. They’ll square off with Serbia—the trendy pick to win it all—for supremacy of Group J on Sunday. The winner will likely draw Poland in the quarters while the loser will be staring down a matchup with a dangerous Argentina squad.
Renaldo Balkman -- 150 GP
We’ve officially exited the Phil Jackson era and moved into the dark times during the reign of Isiah Thomas. Renaldo Balkman was taken by the Knicks in the first round, presumably after they were enamored with his performance for South Carolina in the NIT.
He spent two lackluster seasons with the Knicks before he was traded to the Denver Nuggets for Taurean Green, Bobby Jones, and a second-round pick that would eventually become Landry Fields.
That being said, that was only the first of a Knicks-Nuggets trade involving Balkman. He was added as a filler piece in the Carmelo Anthony trade that changed the course of the franchise.
Balkman and Puerto Rico were eliminated from quarterfinal contention after losing to Serbia by 43 on Friday. The 35-year-old is averaging 7.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists at the World Cup.
Danilo Gallinari -- 157 GP
Without a doubt, the best of this crop is Danilo Gallinari. Of course, Gallinari was one of the main pieces the Knicks sent to Denver in the Melo trade.
The Italian is still putting up big numbers in the NBA. In his last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, Gallo averaged career-highs in points (19.8), rebounds (6.1), and field-goal percentage (46.3%).
Gallinari and the Italians nearly knocked off a sluggish Spanish side on Friday, but a late surge from Spain would end Italy’s hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. Despite the loss, Gallinari has been fantastic at the World Cup. He’s averaging 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in four games.