Frank Ntilikina may be healed and ready to play, but Tom Thibodeau has still yet to get the guard in a game for the first time since Dec. 29.
So what can Ntilikina do to break into the lineup? He was asked that very question on Sunday during shootaround.
«Just stay ready, improve, keep on improving,» he said. «When I’m not on that court what I can do is make sure I practice, workout a lot, stay on top of my shape and actually get better, not just stay ready but get better. Use that time to learn new things and get better as a player.
«There’s a lot of stuff you can do on the court still, a lot of stuff you can learn watching film, watching also what’s going on the court and also on the side. Definitely I won’t take that time and waste it. I’m going to take advantage of everything, every opportunity. Take full advantage of every day.»
The addition of Derrick Rose didn’t help matters for Ntilikina. But the Knicks are a win-now team, trying their hardest to remain in the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference to make the playoffs. So Rose is just another guard to go along with rookie Immanuel Quickley, Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, Austin Rivers and RJ Barrett that need playing time at the moment.
The NBA trade deadline is coming closer by the day, and March 25 is about a month away. Dennis Smith Jr. was dealt away in the deal for Rose, so who knows if Ntilikina will still be a Knick after that date comes.
But Ntilikina can’t think about that right now. Whenever Thibodeau calls his name, he’ll be good to go now. And that’s all he can control.
«When Coach calls my name, I’m ready,» Ntilikina said. «I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. I’ve been practicing and playing basketball, so when the opportunity comes, it’s just confidence, so I’m going to be ready 100 percent.»