Knicks new head coach David Fizdale is already taking Frank Ntilikina under his wing. And the first order of business for the Knicks 2017 first-rounder is to get some to be more selfish with the ball.
Normally the point guard position is expected to do the exact opposite. But Fizdale believes Ntilikina is too passive in his game, which is why he brought him to his hotel room on Wednesday for a private film session to look at summer league practice from the day before.
"He's a good basketball player," Fizdale told Newsday's Al Iannazzone. "It's going to be a process with him of constantly emphasizing aggression and always be in 'Go mode' and don't be concerned as much about taking care of everybody and that his aggression will draw defenders to help him take care of everybody.
"He's such an unselfish kid. He wants to please everyone."
It was a point of emphasis this offseason for Ntilikina to not only fill out his 6-foot-6 frame, but also work on his offensive game. The Knicks saw his obvious skill on the defensive side of the ball, but making him a great two-way player starts with this added aggression Fizdale alludes to.
After studying film, Fizdale pointed out that Ntilikina likes to give up the ball immediately when he reaches midcourt despite there being a wide open lane in front of him.
"When we go back through the film, even he wasn't aware of times when he just came down and passed it," Fizdale said. "He's looking at an ocean of pain in front of him where he can go attack. That's just his nature.
"I showed him a little thing and he goes, 'I'm just giving up the ball for no reason.' I'm like, 'I'm just going to keep showing it to you.' Over reps and time, habits will break. New habits will form."
Ntilikina took the eye-opening session well, and he is loving how Fizdale is already making an impact on him.
"It helped me a lot just seeing how he sees the game," Ntilikina said. "For players, it's always important to know what the coach wants from them, especially for me as I learn to lead this team. It was great. He helped me out i general, in my mind and how I approach the game. It was a great thing."
The 19-year-old will also need to adapt to Fizdale's method of not placing a specific position on a player. The former Grizzlies coach noted that his guards will be playing different positions on the court, and with Ntilikina specifically, he is hoping the new aggressive tactic works whether he's taking the ball up or working without it.
"He has to understand how to get up the floor and start trying to get cheap ones by getting ahead," Fizdale said. "And I want to be able to run stuff where I do play him off ball. Is he going to handle a lot for me? For sure. But I don't want to necessarily put him in that box and say point guard. Because I'm going to play him with point guards. At that point, who's the point guard then?
"I just want to keep his mindset about being just a good guard that can do multiple things while staying aggressive."
Fizdale and Ntilikina both hope this new mindset helps the young guard improve on his 5.9 points and 3.2 assists that he averaged during his rookie year.