The first Knicks preseason game is still 70 days away, but who’s counting?
The FIBA World Cup, however, tips off in China just about three weeks from now, and there will be at least a couple of Knicks representing their respective countries while giving us an opportunity to see how they look ahead of the 2019-2020 campaign.
On this edition of The Knicks Are Going International, we check in on Frank Ntilikina, R.J. Barrett, and Julius Randle. Grab your utensil of choice, and let’s dig in.
Frank Ntilikina, point guard, Team France
Before we go any further, let’s pause for a second to shout Happy Birthday in the direction of Ntilikina, who just turned 21 on July 28, meaning we can no longer say he isn’t even old enough to drink. Man, time flies when you trade your best player and then become the worst team in the league. But hey, we’re in the throes of what looks like a real rebuild, so why get into all that?
Ntilikina will participate in the FIBA World Cup as a member of Team France, where he is expected to be one of three point guards on the roster, according to our friends over at French Knicks Pod, which took it upon themselves to provide updates after the coach and general manager of the French team did recent interviews.
Nice primer on what to expect from Frank Ntilikina with the French national team next month at the FIBA World Cup https://t.co/yjNibMqHBy— Posting and Toasting (@ptknicksblog) July 27, 2019
Major takeaways include that Ntilikina will come off the bench behind Barcelona basketballer Thomas Heurtel, that he has known Team France head coach Vincent Collet for about six years — or dating back to when Frank was merely 15-years-old — and that the Knicks didn’t originally want to let Ntilikina play in the tournament at all. The Knicks don’t like letting Ntilikina play anywhere, apparently.
The big statement from the press conference of the French National Team was— French Knicks Pod (@FrenchKnicksPod) July 29, 2019
By the General Manager (Patrick Beesley) :
"Until late last night, we did not have permission from the Knicks for Frank, and finally we got the green light for Ntilikina by the Knicks !"
Coach Collet said some things about Frank that many of us have been screaming for the last couple years. To be precise, he said Ntilikina is an elite defensive player who will get important minutes in the international competition. He also said this:
“Frank will be a big advantage for the team this summer because he has intangibles that you can’t teach and with his physical tools, he’s a 6-foot-7 point guard, we will use him with all his offensive strengths: his high IQ and his versatility.”
RJ Barrett, guard, Team Canada
The third overall pick in this year’s draft is among a bunch of NBA ballers who will appear on the Canadian squad, with an impressive group of teammates expected to include Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Tristan Thompson, among others.
Barrett is coming off a weird Summer League. Overall, his stats paint a picture of a guy who’s ready to come in and kick some butt; as a matter of fact, Barrett was the first player in NBA Summer League history to average 15 or more points, 8 or more rebounds and 4 or more assists per game, according to Adam Zagoria over at Forbes.
Those who watched him, however, saw a rookie with an often underwhelming shot and some unfortunate tendencies to barrel towards the rim with his head down. That said, he improved as the Summer League went on, so it should be very interesting to see how Barrett performs against the best of the rest of the world.
Conveniently, Rowan Barrett, father of RJ, is the general manager for the Canadian men’s national team, so the chances of Barrett making the final roster seem strong. As part of Team Canada, Barrett will play under head coach Nick Nurse, who you might know as the most recent coach to win the NBA championship.
Julius Randle, power forward, Team USA
Randle was recently added to the training camp roster for Team USA after some other players dropped out, and there’s no guarantee he’ll make the final squad that will compete for the World Cup.
Randle is among a group of 17 total players currently fighting to make the team, which will ultimately feature 12 players. Look, there’s no need to sugarcoat it. Randle has the best abs of anyone who has ever competed for a spot on Team USA. They are some of the finest abs in human history.
Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether good-looking abdominal muscles are among the requirements for making the team. Instead, coach Gregg Popovich is probably focused on basketball abilities. With that in mind, let’s try to figure out what the chances are that Randle makes the team.
Randle is most certainly a power forward, and in international competition he could probably play some center, too. Kevin Love, one of the 17 players currently on the USA training camp roster, is reportedly planning to take himself out of the running, which increases the odds that Randle could make the team.
He’ll be up against fellow big men like Andre Drummond, Myles Turner, Brook Lopez and Paul Milsap. Randle is the type of guy who seems like he would relish in bullying his foreign opponents down low and on the boards, so Pop should cut the crap and announce him as a member of the final 12 already.
Conclusion, no position, Team P&T
The FIBA World Cup will take place in China between Aug. 31 and Sept. 15, although there will be some exhibition games and such before then, so check your local listings or whatever.
In the meantime, NBA TV has been showing some pretty sweet Hardwood Classics recently, including games featuring the late 1990s Utah Jazz and the early 2000s Sacramento Kings, so if the summer dog days have you jonesing for a basketball fix, try that.