Frank Ntilikina just wants to show the Knicks what he can bring to the table.
On Friday night, the 19-year old rookie made his home debut and showed everyone he definitely has something to bring.
In 22 minutes of action off the bench, Ntilikina gave the Garden crowd a glimpse into what the future of the Knicks may look like with an actual point guard.
But not just a point guard though, the Knicks have had many of those over the years, at least they’ve tried to make it look as if they do.
A point guard who thinks pass first, can run the offense, and play defense? In a Knicks’ uniform? For 22 minutes on a Friday night in October, the rookie looked the part.
The end result was a 107-86 blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets.
“He was out there having fun,” teammate Courtney Lee said afterwards. “His court vision was crazy. He was able to make plays.”
When the Knicks selected Ntilikina with the eighth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the move was made with mixed reactions.
As many of us thought at the time, Phil Jackson needed someone who fit his triangle offense. Ntilikina seemed to possess most of the job requirements. He’s 6’5 with a 7’0 wingspan, and played professional overseas.
Jackson, as team president, must have been rubbing his hands together with enthusiasm. He’d get to teach Ntilikina the ins and outs of an offense no one else on the team seemed to want any part of.
But that all changed when the Knicks showed Jackson the door.
Knicks’ fans may have been happy to see Jackson finally go, but the reality was he left behind a 19-year old question mark.
It didn’t help matters when he began struggling with injuries almost the moment he put on a Knicks jersey.
The questions turned recently to frustration when reports of the Knicks refusing to include Ntilikina in a trade for Phoenix Suns’ point guard Eric Bledsoe surfaced.
Why hold onto someone who can’t seem to stay healthy when there’s an ideal fit for your needs being dangled right in front of you?
In 22 minutes on a Friday night in October, Ntilikina did his best to show everyone why.
Backing up Jarret Jack at the point, Ntilikina finished with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field with five assists.
Jack’s veteran presence may have given the struggling Knicks a much-needed change of pace at the start of the game, but Ntilikina was the spark that turned everything around for them.
We’re not surprised because we see it every day in practice,” Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek said after the game. “For a young kid, just turned 19, not too long ago, you don’t see that bright-eyed, ‘oh my gosh, I’m in the Garden, I’m playing against this guy.’ He just plays. He’s got the great feel.”
That great ‘feel for the game didn’t go unnoticed by the fans. There was a roar inside the World’s Most Famous Arena when Ntilikina found Kyle O’Quinn with a pinpoint pass for a dunk which caused Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson to angrily call for time.
Yes, there were three turnovers and a few questionable shots taken. But the Knicks will live with the growing pains long as he continues to play with poise and the makeup of a veteran who’s not afraid of the big stage or the big apple.
“He had a good game,” said teammate Kristaps Porzingis. “I am happy … I like how he came in the game. He had a good pace and he was controlling the team. He made the shots. Overall he had a great game.”
Porzingis was big-time in this game with a 30-point performance, but now the Knicks potentially have his point guard of the future beginning to show what he brings to the table.
“I am trying to bring what I can bring to my team,” Ntilikina said after his performance. “That is what I did. Now I am focused on working and bringing more.”
For 22 minutes on a Friday night in October, the Knicks and their fans saw that what Ntilikina brings is hope.
Maybe the future doesn’t look too bad after all.