Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina believes he ‘still got better’ despite injury-riddled season
Expectations were high for Frank Ntilikina coming into 2018-19.
Not only was the former eighth overall draft pick poised to reap the benefits of rookie-year growing pains as a sophomore, but he also literally grew a full inch between the time he was drafted and late last summer, suggesting the Frenchman could exploit his enviable physical tools to a greater extent on both sides of the ball going forward. The New York Knicks and their long-suffering fan base weren’t necessarily expecting Ntilikina to flash star potential this season, but he was certainly supposed to show signs of eventually developing into a solid starter.
Instead, his second NBA go-around was marred by injury, as Ntilikina appeared in 43 games before his season officially ended on Friday due to a nagging groin injury. Just as disappointing, Ntilikina didn’t play well when he was healthy enough to take the floor, averaging 5.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game on dreadful shooting marks of 33.7 percent overall and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc – all worse than his rookie-year numbers.
The silver lining? Ntilikina insists he won’t let frustrations gleaned from 2018-19 get him down, and swears he made progress this season notwithstanding injuries and statistics telling a much different story.
“I got to stay positive to what is happening. It’s frustrating but it’s for my health,” he said on Friday of the Knicks’ decision to shut him down for good, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I know it’s the right decision to make right now. I still grew a lot as a player and a person. Of course it’s frustrating to not have played as many games as I wanted to. But I still got better.”
Ntilikina suffered the groin injury that would eventually end his season in late January. He returned to the court last Friday, playing 25 minutes against the Denver Nuggets, before being pulled from New York’s following game in the second quarter due to discomfort in his groin.