Knicks PG Frank Ntilikina has finally been cleared to practice, and it couldn't have came at a better time.
According to the Daily News' Stefan Bondy, the 20-year-old former first rounder will be practicing with G-League Westchester on Tuesday as the Knicks are traveling back from Toronto following a 128-92 blowout on Monday night. Ntilikina has been sidelined for weeks with a groin injury, but if everything goes well at practice, he could be suiting up against the Jazz at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
That would be the best case scenario for Ntilikina, who needs these last 11 games of the season to prove he is still worth it to the Knicks. It doesn't look good for Ntilikina to stay in orange and blue next season, especially with new point guard Dennis Smith Jr. coming over from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. The Knicks also have Allonzo Trier, Emmanuel Mudiay and Damyean Doston all under contract for 2019.
At the beginning of the month, The Post's Marc Berman had a source say Ntilikina would be on the trade block on NBA Draft night in June. But his draft stock wouldn't be high if he can't get back on the court, and finish strong for the Knicks. Ntilikina also has yet to play with Smith, so these last few games are crucial for the Knicks to make sure they don't make a mistake trading a first-rounder.
"Don't they have to see what they have first?" an NBA source told Berman. "If he turns into a bust as a lottery pick, fine. But they do not know that yet."
With Smith coming over, head coach David Fizdale noted he wanted to move Ntilikina to the wing. He believes his height and stout defensive abilities would allow him to compete against small forwards. Smith said he has looked forward to playing with Ntilikina, as he likes the way he plays.
"I think [Ntilikina] plays with a really high IQ," Smith, who was taken one pick after Ntilikina in the 2017 Draft, told Berman. "I like his game. I never had an issue with his game. Defensively he's elite. Offensively, he has a higher IQ than people think. He really understands the game. I think we can play well together."
Well, Ntilikina will have to play well with Smith and the rest of the Knicks if he wants to remain in New York. And that could start tomorrow night against the Jazz where Fizdale, along with the Knicks front office, will have a keen eye on the Frenchman as the season comes to a close.