Frank Ntilikina wasn't gifted with any Christmas playing time with his mother in from France for Tuesday's loss at the Garden. But that's about to change Thursday night.
Knicks coach David Fizdale said the point guard will play in the team's rematch against the Bucks in Milwaukee following Ntilikina's fourth DNP of the season. (New York Post)
Fizdale said he is happy with how the NBA sophomore has handled his time on the bench.
"He's a pro, man," Fizdale said, per Marc Berman of the NY Post. "He says, 'Coach, don't you worry about that.' That's how he talks. He says, 'I don't want you to worry about that. I know you are going to get me back in there at some point and I won't let you down.'
"For a 20-year-old kid to think that way and talk that way even though I know it hurt him, and I know it was hard on him, and I didn't want to do that to him - he just handled it great. I want him to have a shot back at these guys."
Ntilikina appeared to show some frustration after his Xmas benching, which came after he was glued to the bench for three straight games earlier this month. Fizdale justified benching Ntilikina Tuesday to give Trey Burke more minutes after being a DNP the last two games due to a knee problem.
But Burke didn't provide much against the Bucks, shooting 1-for-7 with just two points. Fellow guard Emmanuel Mudiay also struggled in the 109-95 defeat, going 5-for-14 from the floor.
Ntilikina surged for two games following his earlier DNPs but has declined offensively. He's averaging 6.3 points per game with a 34.6 shooting percentage.
Fizdale said he's looking at Ntilikina to give the Knicks some defensive help against Bucks guards Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon.
"Their guards really broke us down off the dribble," Fizdale said. "I thought that was a big difference in the third quarter, Brock and Bledsoe. So, I want to give Frank a shot at defending those guys."
Now Ntilikina has the chance to impress his coach on the court as well.