In one of his last acts as the New York Knicks’ president of basketball operations, Phil Jackson used the No. 8 overall pick in last Thursday’s 2017 NBA draft to select Frank Ntilikina. It did not escape the notice of many NBA observers that the Knicks let Phil take a 6-foot-5 French prospect tabbed as the most Triangle-appropriate point guard in the draft class — tall, long arms, a sweet shooting stroke, a combination of physical tools that could make him an excellent perimeter defender — over perhaps more immediately ready and offensively explosive performers like N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. and Kentucky’s Malik Monk, and then, less than one week later, was out of a job, taking his preferred geometry with him.
It’s not exactly fair to the young man I must insist we call Frankie Smokes that the Phil affair means he’ll have to prove he’s more than just a pick taken to fit a discarded system on top of being compared to Smith Jr. and Monk, but that’s his lot in life for now, I’m afraid. But hey: that doesn’t mean it’s all bad, right? There’s not really any such thing as a Knicks curse or anything, after all. That’s all just hears—
Knicks top draft pick Frank Ntilikina missed Thursday’s Summer League practice because of a bruised knee.
The Frenchman, who was drafted eighth overall by the Knicks, said he suffered the injury in his final French League game the day after he was drafted. Ntilikina is unclear if he’ll be to play in the Summer League opener Saturday against the Mavericks, but he insisted the injury was minor.
“Bumped knee. Sore knee. Nothing crazy but we played a lot of games in France — more than college games — I was just pretty tired and this happened,” he said.
OK, sure, beginning your Knicks career with a knee injury isn’t the best thing in the world. But hey, it’s not like one little thing portends someone’s Knicks career will go poorly. Surely, the franchise’s vaunted attention to detail will turn things ar—
— Nick Vega (@TheTrueVega) June 29, 2017
For the record: the young man’s name is “Ntilikina.” Not “Ntilinka.” To be fair, though, I also get exhausted enough thinking about Orlando Summer League that I kind of stop caring about whatever I’m doing halfway through.
While a sore knee and a jersey foul isn’t the warmest welcome to life in the NBA, neither Ntilikina nor head coach Jeff Hornacek sound overly concerned about the newly minted first-round draft pick’s health, well-being or ability to get acclimated to a system that’s likely to feature a more pick-and-roll-heavy approach than it would’ve under Jackson’s watchful eye.
“He’s a very smart kid,” Hornacek told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve thrown a lot of things at these guys. Yesterday during the second practice I said, ‘Frank, I’m going to give you a written test now. I have some courts and you have to draw out all these plays.’ He goes, ‘I’m ready.’ That’s kind of the word on him, is that he picks things up really fast. If he is able to play any of these summer league games without practicing, goes out there and runs it, you know he’s a pretty smart player.”
Maybe he should be the one in charge of spelling the names on the backs of the jerseys, then. From the looks of things, it couldn’t hurt.
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