Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina staying ready despite being stuck here
The coronavirus pandemic shutdown hasn’t stopped Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina from attempting to stay in shape, but it required some purchases.
Ntilikina, unable to fly back to his home country of France under the NBA’s guidelines banning international travel, said some players have done group workouts via video apps. That is catching on around the NBA as gyms are shuttered and players are having difficulty getting up shots.
“It was tough the first days so I decided to get some weights,’’ Ntilikina said as he took fan questions on the Knicks website Tuesday night. “Get bands, get a bench, jump rope. All the tools you can really have and help you inside the house to stay in shape. We have a program with our teammates. We stay connected. We’re all trying to stay ready.’’
Ntilikina flew back to Dallas, where his new agent Bouna Ndiaye stays. He spent a lot of last summer in Dallas.
Ntilikina may have ended his third season on a high note. In the second-to-last game before the season’s suspension, Ntilikina, 21, became the youngest Knick to post a 20-point, 10-assist game.
Ntilikina’s shooting percentages still aren’t up to par (39.3 percent overall, 32.1 percent from 3-point range), but in the Knicks’ last eight games, he shot 40 percent from 3.
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“My confidence is growing over my first three years because of all the work I put in every day, getting in the gym working on my skills, working on my body,’’ Ntilikina said. “And today it’s helped me be more comfortable on the court and automatically being more confident. I think the part of the game improved most was confidence.”
The Knicks lost that game in Washington, so he wouldn’t use it as his “best memory” this season. Instead, he chose the March 2 win against Houston that became overshadowed by the James Dolan versus Spike Lee feud.
“It was a great win, we played a great game,’’ Ntilikina said. “Houston came to play in New York and really wanted to win that game. We played very good basketball on that night and the Garden was really jumping too. It was fun.”
Ntilikina’s defense has always been stellar, with his smarts and long arms. With Ntilikina on the floor, the Knicks’ defensive rating was 110.5, which would have ranked 16th in the NBA. Without him, the rating was 114.1 (28th).
During the Q-and-A, Ntilikina was asked if he has a special defensive drill that has helped. He answered that it was not drills but more his coaching in France that got him so adept.
The longest-tenured Knick will enter the final year of his rookie contract, making a hefty $6.2 million in 2020-21. Knicks fans either love or hate their 2017 lottery pick it seems.
“Knicks fans, they love the team,’’ Ntilikina said. “They really want the team to be successful. They really have that drive with basketball. Also that’s what makes it really special to be able to play at the Garden.’’
Ntilikina giggled when asked when he has fries in the city if he calls them french fries.
“They’re just fries,’’ he said. “They’re not even from France. They [started] in Belgium.’’
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