A happy Frank Ntilikina is moving on from the FIBA World Cup to the New York Knicks for the upcoming season.
With Sunday’s FIBA World Cup Gold Medal Game between Argentina and Spain, the 2019 event is over. It ended for the New York Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina in the Bronze Medal Game, contributing to France’s third-place finish in the tournament along the way.
For the Frenchman, it was his brightest period of basketball these past two years. He faced criticism, an inability to reach expectations as a lottery pick in 2017 and trade rumors. The offseason seemed like the end in New York for him, but no deal ever happened.
Ntilikina finished the FIBA World Cup with a steady 8.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game on 43.6 percent shooting and 33.3 percent on three-pointers.
Celebrating with the bronze medal, the 21-year-old guard tweeted his happiness with taking home hardware from this global event.
The New York Times’ Marc Stein also spoke to Ntilikina, who said “I’m finally healthy again” and “I just have that feeling back” after playing these games for France.
Fans have also been divided on Ntilikina for the past two years, especially with his uncertain future earlier this summer. Stein asked if the third-year pro is aware of the reaction, and he said “I feel their support every day.”
Ntilikina will need that support on a new-look Knicks team that has backcourt additions and players capable of handling multiple positions. He is still one of the youngest of the bunch, but after head coach David Fizdale provided sporadic opportunities and benched him twice, the 6-foot-6 talent must climb back into the rotation picture or face another demotion.
Most importantly, Ntilikina has a fourth-year team option ahead for the Knicks to decide on. That will determine his future for the 2020-21 season. Usually, these options are foregone conclusions, but teams sometimes opt to cut ties with their former first-round picks, including the Orlando Magic and Mario Hezonja in 2017.
Ntilikina took strides forward internationally. Now, it must translate to the NBA, where the pressure will resonate from training camp and on.