If the Knicks are going to unlock some sort of hidden chest full of victories next season, they can start by trying Dennis Smith Jr.’s brand new key to the city of Fayetteville, which was bestowed upon the North Carolina native this week thanks to his off-the-court charity work.
You read that right, the third year guard out of NC State was gifted an oversized key in a frame during a ceremony held this week. Mitch Colvin, mayor of Fayetteville — where Smith Jr. was born, raised and played high school basketball — presented the key and praised the Knickerbocker, saying he has shown serious dedication to re-investing in his hometown.
The honor comes a few months after Smith Jr., in February, with help from his peeps at Under Armour, refurbished some basketball courts in Fayetteville. Smith Jr. clearly has reason to care about Fayetteville, which is where he was first noticed as a guy who might have what it takes to make the NBA. By his junior year at Trinity Christian, Smith Jr. was a standout stud, although he unfortunately missed his entire senior year because of a torn ACL.
Let’s pause for a second to watch some of Smith Jr.’s high school highlights.
Smith Jr. went on to play one season at NC State University before declaring for the NBA draft. In 2017, he was selected by the Dallas Mavericks, and in February of last year he made his way to the Knicks. Huh, the memory of exactly how he got here seems to be missing.
Smith Jr. has looked pretty darn good in some recent Instagram videos from NBA training guru Chris Brickley, so here’s hoping for a breakout campaign this season.
I told u i feel good ♂️— Dennis Smith Jr. (@Dennis1SmithJr) August 7, 2019
While we’re discussing point guards from the 2017 NBA draft, we might as well see what’s going on with Frank Ntilikina, who remains a Knick for now and is currently competing for the FIBA World Cup as part of Team France.
France shellacked Team Tunisia during an exhibition game on Wednesday, 94-56, and Ntilikina played the most of any single player on his team, with just under 23 minutes of action, according to the box score. He scored 7 points on 2-7 shooting, and overall appears to have made a positive impact while he was on the floor, which is exactly the sort of sentence that could be written after many Knicks games.
The actual FIBA tournament doesn’t begin in earnest until Aug. 31, but the idea of having Frank highlights from an exhibition game is what’s keeping some of us going as we enter the dog days of summer. What of it?
Twitter user @SKPearlman, who according to his Twitter bio previously worked as a draft consultant for the Phoenix Suns, has catalogued and analyzed many of the plays featuring Ntilikina for our viewing pleasure.
Here is one of those highlights, which would be better with Mitchell Robinson in place of Rudy Gobert, but whatever.
Another change of speed coming off the PnR. This one got the ballhandler defender to hesitate *just* a bit (though it probably wasn't necessary). Nice job getting into the paint to create the lob.— Spencer (@SKPearlman) August 7, 2019
Also, his wingspan allows him to get that pass off just over the defender's arm pic.twitter.com/AJWcLIPPNF
And here is that same highlight, except with a closer camera angle and in slow motion: