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Taking stock of the Frank Ntilikina situation

Why all signs point to the Frenchman finally seeing the floor this weekend.

Minnesota Timberwolves v New York Knicks
The French Prince may finally see the court again this weekend.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The sudden and mostly unexplained disappearance of Frank Ntilikina from recent NBA basketball games has caused chaos in New York, with fans and media speculating that the 20-year-old sophomore point guard is about to be traded while arguing whether he is even any good, but based on the evidence we have at our disposal it seems probable that Ntilikina’s shackles are about to come off.

The Monsieur of MSG has been a DNP: coach’s decision for three consecutive games. His benching came in response to subpar play on the offensive end, and David Fizdale has kept Ntilikina glued to the bench despite Trey Burke being sidelined with a knee sprain. Meanwhile, reports of other teams with interest in trading for Ntilikina have been trickling down like drops of acid raid over the past few weeks.

It’s all been quite dramatic, and Ntilikina, who is normally cooler than a cooled cucumber, recently lashed out — respectfully, of course — at reporters who have been pestering him with questions about his lack of playing time.

While it’s certainly not a great sign that Ntilikina played so poorly that it led to him riding the bench for a few games, it appears as if his exile is about to come to an end. Fizdale told reporters after practice on Friday that his decision to bench Frank came partially as part of a motivational tactic, similar to the way that he previously benched Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay and Damyean Dotson this season.

“All those guys went through it, and they came back better on the other side of it,” Fizdale said, according to Newsday’s Barbara Barker. “The way Frank has handled it has been exceptional. He’s gone about it literally the exact same way that those other guys have. That’s why I think when he does go back in there, he’s going to be ready.”

Fizdale went on to detail that he didn’t play Ntilikina during the waning minutes of the Knicks’ recent 128-100 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics because he still believes the Frenchman is part of the regular rotation, and also admitted that it’s possible he hasn’t handled the situation perfectly.

“Do I always make the right decision, the perfect decision? No. But I really try to be fair and at the same time develop them,” he said, according to Barker.

Further, Fizdale said that Ntilikina had a “heck of a practice,” and added that “you will be seeing Frank on the court sometime soon,” according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

There have been no credible reports saying the Knicks are shopping Ntilikina, only reports saying that other teams want him. Sure, he has struggled early this season, but he is an excellent defender who has flashed the potential to eventually break out on offense if he can ever gain some sorely-needed confidence. And he’s already shown some offensive ability, particularly when playing with Kristaps Porzingis.

The Knicks play two games this weekend, both at MSG, and if Ntilikina doesn’t see the floor tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, chances are high that his comeback will be Sunday, when the Knicks host the Charlotte Hornets for French Heritage Night.