In order to better prepare for his second season with the Knicks and his first under new head coach David Fizdale, point guard Frank Ntilikina told the French outlet l'Equipe he won't play for Team France in the FIBA World Cup qualifying.
"At the dawn of my second NBA season with the New York Knicks," Ntilikina said in a statement in French, "the timing appears very complex with a start of regrouping the team planned in early September and a new cycle to come with a new coaching staff. It is with great regret that I will not be able to finally join the group for this campaign."
The 20-year-old Ntilikina, who averaged 5.9 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 78 games as a rookie with New York last season, studied film with Fizdale earlier this summer and said he learned a lot from Fizdale, the former Grizzlies coach who replaced Jeff Hornacek.
"For players, it's always important to know what the coach wants from them, especially for me as I learn to lead this team," Ntilikina said of Fizdale in July. "It was great. He helped me out i general, in my mind and how I approach the game. It was a great thing."
The second round of European qualifiers has three windows, which begin in September and last until February. The World Cup itself begins Aug. 31, 2019. France is currently atop Group K with a 6-0 record, ahead of the 5-1 Czech Republic and 3-3 Russia and Finland.
Twelve European teams qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019, as well as seven teams from Asia, five from Africa and seven from the Americas. Of the 32 teams competing in the World Cup, seven will directly qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.