Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau entered the season-opening competition versus the Pacers with no intention of playing either point guards, Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr.
The two lottery picks in 2017 did not get their rookie contract extensions by Monday’s deadline, and reportedly neither of them did Thibodeau’s 10-man rotation.
Even after back-point guard Immanuel Quickley went down late in the second quarter with a hip pointer, the Knicks coach tried to do without them.
During the third quarter, when starting point guard Elfrid Payton picked up his third foul, Thibodeau attempted a backcourt by Alec Burks and RJ Barrett instead of turning against Ntilikina or Smith.
It slowed the offense to a review and was a further indicator of how the Frenchman and the former North Carolina State Guard need to earn Thibodeau’s confidence.
Asked why he went without a point guard, Thibodeau said, “Alec, who has previously played the point, had a great first half. We wanted to keep as much shooting on the floor as we can to try to create the opportunities we are looking for, included in it. That’s something we obviously wanted to look at. I think the more we do it, the better it gets. ”
It didn’t work out as the Pacers extended their lead to 88-82 after three quarters. Desperate, Thibodeau turned to Ntilikina to start the fourth, and the 22-year-old took no advantage as the Pacers ran away with it.
Ntilikina played five minutes, missed both shot attempts and was minus-5.
Before the competition, Ntilikina was unsure if he had broken the 10-man rotation. He had missed the last two preseason games with Achilles tenderness.
“It will be the coach’s decision,” Ntilikina said after the shooting in the morning. “As players, we just have to be ready to jump on the field when they call us. The opportunities we have, we have many talented guards. This means many opportunities for the coach.
“We will be a talented team. Right now, this question is more for the coach to figure out what he wants to do. My job is to be ready for every single game. ”
Monday’s deadline passed without Ntilikina, 22, getting a rookie contract extension – which was expected. Ntilikina said he had never had discussions about it and he will, as previously reported, become a limited free agent by 2021.
Therefore, his future remains dark, and a trade deadline agreement should be a consideration if he is not completely in rotation. Of course, the Knicks could also add him to a package for a star.
Kevin Knox’s season started slowly. He scored four points in 18 minutes and missed his first three shots.
Thibodeau went with a starting lineup of Payton, Reggie Bullock, Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson. … The Knicks came on fire from the 3-point line, finishing 12 of 28 (42 percent). Barrett was 3 on 3 after fighting all last season and in the preseason from deep.