The offseason can shove it, because preseason practices are in full swing. There are plenty of Knicks-related items to discuss after the second day of practice prior to the 2019-20 season, including Frank Ntilikina’s cauldron full of confidence, Dennis Smith Jr.’s new weight loss program, and Julius Randle’s versatility.
Let’s dig in.
Frank Ntilikina’s comeback season?
Ntilikina’s stellar summer for Team France in the FIBA World Cup might have Knicks brass considering some playing time for the 21-year-old this season. Well, David Fizdale, at least. Steve Mills and Scott Perry still aren’t sure whether they want to pick up that fourth year option for Frank.
Nonetheless, the Frenchman was a major topic of discussion on Wednesday, with Fizdale saying that Ntilikina’s impressive showing in China “really did some good stuff for his confidence.”
Fizdale said him and Frank hung out twice over the summer, once in Los Angeles and another time in Dallas. Additionally, Fizdale has apparently invited France’s head coach, Vincent Collet, to come spend some time with the Knicks at some point, and also said he intends to steal some of the sets run by Team France. Fizdale loves bringing people into practice to talk to his Knicks.
As for Ntilikina himself, the point guard/wing/whatever-position-Fizdale-decides-to-play-him-at sounds very confident about his game going into the year, which is wonderful to hear.
Frank Ntilikina is back from FIBA WC and took something with him.— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) October 2, 2019
"I learned a lot. How good I can be playing basketball, it’s simple on both sides of the courts. A competition like that brought me a lot of confidence."
Wrote about his France play here: https://t.co/pQfokuNcCS pic.twitter.com/ueG7EuD7ti
Does Dennis Smith Jr. only eat vegetables now?
Smith Jr. says he lost about 15 pounds over the summer by cutting out fast food from Bojangles and replacing it with fruit smoothies, spinach and kale.
With less of a load to carry, hopefully Smith Jr. will be able to stay on the court, as the point guard has missed 42 games over his first two seasons in the league thanks to wrist and back issues.
Perhaps he’ll be able to jump even higher now that he’s got 15 less pounds to lift up while he’s trying to dunk.
Julius Randle, point forward?
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Blake Griffin. LeBron James. Julius Randle? Fizdale described Randle as potentially the most versatile player on the Knicks, and said he foresees some point forward action this year for the newest Knicks star.
Imagine this scenario: Randle rips down a defensive rebound and then immediately turns and races down the court. Defenders panic as they try to get back before Randle can jam the ball down their throats, so Randle hits someone — maybe Mitchell Robinson, maybe somebody else — for a corner three.
Here’s another scenario: Randle has the ball up top and Robinson shoots towards him to set a screen. Randle starts to make a move, Robinson slips the screen, and Randle lobs the basketball in the general direction of the rim. Robinson does a full forward flip before catching and slamming the ball. The arena bursts into flames but nobody cares. They’re all cheering and crying because the pick and roll between Randle and Robinson was so beautiful. Most of the first part of this paragraph is possible, and in fact, perhaps likely.
Julius Randle is going to get a lot of offensive responsibility in NY. Randle is going to run pick-and-roll for the Knicks and get isos and bring the ball up the court off rebounds, come off pin-downs and cross-screens.— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) October 2, 2019
"He’s going to play a lot of point-forward," Fizdale says.
Is Mitchell Robinson going to lead the league in three pointers?
The answer to the above question is no, but the Knicks are certainly suggesting that we should prepare ourselves for at least some Robinson trifectas this year.
In case you don’t remember, Robinson has been talking about his ability to drain threes since basically day one. He drained some threes in high school, and hasn’t stopped saying that he’s got the potential to drain threes in the NBA.
"I worked on them all summer. Why work on something you're not going to use?"— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) October 1, 2019
Mitchell Robinson is prepared to take some three-pointers this season: pic.twitter.com/emeZNJAs7w
Robinson and Randle continued to tease their three-point shooting prowess at practice on Wednesday, and Fizdale even noted that, while he doesn’t expect Robinson to be “bombing four threes a game or anything like that,” he wants him to feel confident pulling from deep in certain situations.
A look at Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle shooting after Wednesday’s practice: https://t.co/MdY4aljxR3— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 2, 2019
Perhaps the Knicks will trot out a lineup on day one of the regular season featuring five players that can drain threes if need be. That would be lovely.