Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina appear to be out of Knicks chances

Ntilikina and Knox just so happen to be the team's back-to-back lottery picks from 2017 and 2018 -- eighth and ninth overall in the draft, respectively.

When Sixth Man of the Year candidate Alec Burks was placed in COVID-19 protocols before the Knicks played in Dallas on April 16, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said he had two players who can fill the void in combo guard Frank Ntilikina and combo forward Kevin Knox.

Ntilikina and Knox just so happen to be the team’s back-to-back lottery picks from 2017 and 2018 — eighth and ninth overall in the draft, respectively.

Even with Burks out, Thibodeau had little use for the two. In the six games entering the homestand finale vs. the Bulls on Wednesday, Knox appeared in three of the games for 14 minutes. Ntilikina appeared in three games for eight minutes, including a two-second stint vs. Atlanta.

Both players were passed over the last two games as coach Tom Thibodeau shrank his rotation to nine. Knox, in his third season, has been out of the rotation since late January. He’s appeared in 39 games – many of the moments in garbage time.

According to an NBA source, Knox didn’t show enough motor for Thibodeau’s liking and he’s not into waiting on players when his goal is to make the playoffs this pandemic-shortened season. Knox has one year left on his rookie pact and will be trade bait this offseason – if there’s much value left.

Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina haven’t seen much playing time recently.
Getty Images (2)

In this Zoom era in which reporters are not permitted in the locker room to speak with players as they wish, Knox hasn’t talked to the press since Feb. 3.

It doesn’t look like it will get better for either Knox or Ntilikina with Burks removed from COVID-19 quarantine. Burks could play at the start of Sunday’s 6-game Western trip in Houston.

Ntilikina, the Frenchman drafted to play the triangle, will be a restricted free agent this August.

The way Thibodeau has kept him on the fringe this season indicates he’s likely a goner.

When Thibodeau talks about the lottery duo, he’s quick to praise how professional they have been despite being on the outside looking in.

“He comes in multiple times every day – comes in early, comes back at night, positive attitude,” Thibodeau said of Knox. “His practices contribute to the team. A very important part of the team. Just stay ready.”

Indeed, the duo is a key part of the Knicks’ animated bench patrol.

“They’re great teammates,’’ RJ Barrett said. “Frank is one of my closest friends. I’ve known for Kevin as well. They’ve been great teammates as well. They work extremely hard. I just saw Kevin out there on the court dripping in sweat getting the work in. When they’ve gotten their opportunity they’ve done extremely well.’’

Knox has shot 39.1 percent from 3-point land but he wasn’t enough of a two-way player for Thibodeau’s short rotation.

Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne has not done well with all his Kentucky guys as Knox failed to grow the way Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley did.

Watching Suns small forward Mikal Bridges burn the Knicks late in Monday’s win, finishing with 22 points, was just salt to the Knox wound. The Knicks passed on both Miles Bridges (Charlotte) and Mikal Bridges in the 2018 draft.

“One thing about those guys is they’re coming in every day, they’re one of the first guys in the gym,’’ Taj Gibson said. “At night, when I come back in at night, they’re one of the first faces I see in the gym at night. They’re always ready. They do whatever the team needs. But make no mistake, Frank comes in many times late in games and helped us win games. Kev is the same. Kev is ready. Frank is ready. If anything happens those guys are ready to step up.’’

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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