New York Knicks: David Fizdale resonates confidence in Frank Ntilikina

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

On Day 2 of training camp, New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale seemed confident in Frank Ntilikina, whose future with the team is uncertain due to an upcoming team option.

On the second day of New York Knicks Training Camp, we get to see Frank Ntlikina. He answers questions about his health, and of course, the FIBA World Cup. Most impressively was head coach David Fizdale’s after practice interview where he reveals a relationship between himself and his player.

Last season, everyone watched as Fizdale literally transformed Emmanuel Mudiay and Frank Ntlikina struggled with his confidence as well as injuries. During his after practice interview, the 21-year-old Frenchman touched on several items:

"On the FIBA World Cup: It was amazing, great to be back playing basketball. Learned how good I am on both sides of the court. This experience being successful was great for me, for us, and helped me a lot.On staying with the Knicks: I keep trusting if it happens it was meant to. I keep trusting my abilities, praying and keep on working. Now is training camp not time for worrying about my contract.On his health: Mentally and physically getting tough. I know now is not the end. Learned a lot about my body and working to stay healthy. Feeling good, no injury flare-ups."

Ntilikina also said that he had heard from the front office a lot, “they let me know they were watching.” He has a fourth-year team option ahead for the general manager, Scott Perry, and the president, Steve Mills, to decide on by Oct. 31.

When interviewed on the second day of training camp, Coach Fizdale was bombarded with questions about Ntilikina.

"On Frank in training camp: He came in with a whole fresh mindset. Again his health was the thing that was demoralizing and he’s healthy this year, had a really good Summer, he’s focused and he’s competing.On visiting Frank this Summer: First person I wanted to go see this summer was Frank. First in LA we went and had lunch and just spent a few hours talking about how do we handle the injuries, getting mindset and body healthy.  Went to Dallas before he left for China spent time with him reiterating the first message, confidence in you, play free and leave everything else behind.On Frank FIBA experience: Studied his play in France. Watched 90% of his games. Stole a couple of sets that worked for him, stole some stuff from other coaches over there.On Frank’s possible playing time: All have to compete, two and three deep at every position.On pending contract: I leave that to Scott and Steve. What I’m seeing is what I’ve wanted to see."

Ntilikina’s situation is as fluctuant as anyone’s. From the contract to his poor 2018-19 season, it placed his organizational future in doubt, especially with all the offseason additions potentially passing him by. Playing point guard is one roadblock, as Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton sit in his way. Even playing off the ball, there are players who warrant minutes, from RJ Barrett to Wayne Ellington.

The preseason will determine where Ntilikina stands early on, starting on Oct. 7. Afterward, he has games to use to move up the ladder and establish a spot in the rotation, whether as a point guard or off the ball and in a reserve role.

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It seems that while some New York Knicks fans and even the front office were looking to trade Ntilikina, his coach always wanted him to stay. We’ll see how that all pans out by the Halloween deadline.