Frank Ntilikina was returning to the Knicks for the final 10 games of this dismal 2018-19 regular season with a purpose: to prove he should still be in blue and orange next season. But it was short-lived when Ntilikina reaggravated his groin injury that kept him out 24 straight games against the Clippers on Sunday night.
So is that it? Does Ntilikina's season finish on this note? Head coach David Fizdale wouldn't say it officially, as the Frenchman sat out of Tuesday's practice.
"We don't know yet on the status of how far away he is from coming back," Fizdale told The Post's Marc Berman. "I know it was a tough blow to the kid the other night. I just don't know how sever it is. I just know that it got to a point during the game where it was really bothering him. It's just been frustrating for the kid. It's been frustrating for all of us, but for him it's been tough."
Ntilikina has played in just 43 games this season, averaging 5.7 points, 2.8 assists, and shot 33.7 percent from the field (28.7 from three). The sophomore rise he and the Knicks had hoped for this season was nowhere to be found, which is why the team was hoping he could string together something in these final games to prove them otherwise.
Now, with only eight games remaining, it seems all but over for Ntilikina this season. And with rumors he could be moving at the NBA Draft, his Knicks career could also be done after two disappointing seasons.
But Ntilikina wasn't the only Knick to leave injured from Sunday's contest. Kevin Knox rolled his ankle on a three-point attempt, and he was forced to sit out the rest of the game. But he was seen with a ball in his hand during practice, as he was limited following his sprain.
Knox explained his injury, saying it was his intention to return to the game. Though he could run on it, he wasn't able to make cuts properly so the smartest thing to do was to take a seat.
"I didn't sprain it on my own," Knox noted. "I just landed. Bad landing. Halftime I went back there, got it tape up, put my braces back on, tried to see if I could run. I could run on it, jog on it, but I couldn't put pressure on it and move side to side. I couldn't go out there in that second half and play at a high level like my team needed me, so I just wanted to shut it down."
Knox may not be having the rookie season Ntilikina did last year, but the ups and downs have certainly been there for the Kentucky product. While averaging 12.6 points per game isn't too shabby for a rookie, Knox owns a 36.9 shooting percentage over his 28.2 minutes of play.
But the reason David Fizdale was so frustrated Knox, in particular, went down was because of his recent success. He's currently averaging 12.9 points and 42.1 percent shooting from the field in March, and his 46.7 percent from three is his highest monthly average thus far in that category.
Fizdale sees the game slowing down for Knox, and he reiterated that once again at practice.
"He's been having a good month," Fizdale said. "If you really look at his number over the course of a month, he's starting to play good basketball. He's shooting the 3 better, his field goal percentage is better, his turnovers are down. I really felt like that was a game where he was really about to get going, so that's unfortunate."
Knox had 11 points before he walked down the tunnel to get evaluated, but seeing him participate to some capacity at practice is a good sign that he can finish the season strong. For Ntilikina, it seems to be the exact opposite.