David Fizdale's commitment to the Knicks Youth Movement is a good thing for Frank Ntilikina, less for Ene's Kanter.
After the Knicks defeat against the thunder on Monday afternoon in the Garden on Monday afternoon (127-109), one player spoke optimistically about the remainder of the season while another wondered about his future.
This conflict is inevitable for a team in transition and could lead to an internal split as the Knicks attempt to negotiate the final
"Right now we need to raise these kids and see who is moving forward with us," said Fizdale after the Knicks lost their tenth game at home.
Kanter came to Martin Luther King Day on Monday only because Luke Kornet sprained his ankle seven minutes after the start of the first quarter. Otherwise, the 23-year-old from Vanderbilt would have teamed up with 20-year-old rookie Mitchell Robinson. Kanter, 26, said he was "not happy" after Fizdale told him on Sunday that he had probably stepped out of the rotation.
The news is better for Ntilikina, eighth overall in the 201
"We think a big picture," Fizdale said about the rotation. "Who is a winner? Who will be a guy who can help us to move into the future? That's how we see Frank.
Ntilikina had a decent game with nine points and five assists in 30 minutes of action. But he was only 4 out of 12 from the field and 1 out of 3 from the 3-point area. His minutes were mixed this year, he started a few games and experienced several in which he did not play at all, since Fizdale was looking elsewhere for a productive guardian combination. Now Ntilikina is working with the second unit alongside Allonzo Trier.
"Coach has experience," said Ntilikina. "We trust that he will do the best to build our team. If he thinks that this is the best role for me, we will do it. I respect his decision and I will play hard every time he puts me on the pitch.
Monday's game offered a microcosm of the Knicks season. They had their awful quarter – this time the first one when they towered 34-16 – and their rotation was more about the future than defeating the thunder.
For Ntilikina, who spent it, however, this was an advantageous excursion. Much of his time was guarded by Russell Westbrook and even Paul George. The two OKC stars came together for 48 points, but Ntilikina had his moments in the defensive end.
Towards the end of the first half, Westbrook made every possible downward move, trying to make room for a shot, but Ntilikina stood on his ground, making it difficult to shoot his long arms and forced him to miss. His greatest value for the Knicks will always be a defensive stoppers, and the Knicks hope this is enough to make him part of their future.
"Many people want him to be that scorer or playmaker, but to win, you need guys who can do all the other little stuff," Fizdale said. "I think there he is. So I felt good about putting him in different positions because he's a man who can handle it. "
Ntilikina said his confidence would not be shaken by the high expectations that were shattered by his high pick ax and the way he was deployed during his brief career at the Knicks
" I know what my blanket is, "he said. "I know where I can go at the end of my career. I know what I can do and what is needed to get there. It will not be easy to get there. But I'm still confident in what I can do and what I can do in the future.
The Knicks are about the future, whether they like it or not.