Ntilikina is coming off a strong showing in the FIBA World Cup for his home country of France. He showed improvements with his shot, confidence and aggressiveness which were big concerns for the Knicks. His coach and teammates raved about Ntilikina’s ability and work ethic.
There were even rumblings of him being the future face of France basketball. The talent is there, but maybe not yet.
France was able to show confidence in Ntilikina throughout the World Cup, something that the Knicks have not done.
Coach David Fizdale said, “That was always tough to juggle and working him back in, getting his confidence back and stuff like that” after missing 40 games last season due to injury. “I’m really happy with the way he came in. He had a great summer and today he had a real competitive practice”, Fizdale said.
But, Ntilikina is now 100% healthy and playing off the high he received in the World Cup. He was given the opportunity to grow into a better basketball player and he did just that. However, the Knicks coaching staff are speculating if his play will translate to the NBA.
Ntilikina was playing against NBA competition, for the most part. He took a big leap forward with hitting gigantic shots to seal the game against the USA. The raw emotion Ntilikina expressed afterwards could suggest his hard work is paying off.
The Knicks need to give Ntilikina the same opportunity that France did. Ntilikina only averaged 19.5 minutes per game and he made them all count. But, the Knicks saying they are “trying out” Ntilikina is saying that they do not have the same confidence in him as France did.
The Knicks should have looked into how France got the most out of Ntilikina and build off that, apparently Fizdale has. Ntilikina was a lottery pick, 8th overall, in 2017 and at times it seems like they give up on Ntilikina. A team should not give up on a lottery pick so easily like it seems the Knicks do.
It also goes to show the lack of confidence the Knicks have in Ntilikina by not picking up his fourth-year option yet. They have until October 31st to do so or he becomes an unrestricted free-agent.
The Knicks are still going to evaluate Ntilikina. He continues to grow as a basketball and shown signs of improvement, he is only 21-years-old after all. Seeing his performance in the World Cup should have been enough to pick-up his option.
Yes, the NBA is much different as compared to the FIBA World Cup. But, Ntilikina has shown that if given the confidence and ability to work through his mistakes, he can be a vital piece to a successive team.
Yesterday, Fizdale finally talked about Ntilikina, expressing a positive outlook in him heading into the season. Ntilikina himself noticed how much confidence he gained from the World Cup. Now, build on that Fizdale.