As I write this, the Knicks are currently tied with Boston and Miami for the 5th seed. What a completely inconceivable sentence 4 months ago but this team could end up with homecourt advantage in the playoffs. I’m shaking.
At this point in the season, you’d assume the Knicks would be buyers at the trade deadline but addition by subtraction is possible. Earlier this week, Elfrid Payton missed a game against the Sacramento Kings which opened the door for the return of the French Prince.
Enter Frank Ntilikina.
You simply won’t see a more satisfying nine seconds than a Frank Ntilikina strip into an IQ step-back three. Beautiful stuff here. pic.twitter.com/Bqk5MA5smi
— Tom Piccolo (@Tom_Piccolo) February 26, 2021
Frank Ntilikina confidently DRAINS the 3. I could cry. pic.twitter.com/E6EVY5imZY
— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) February 26, 2021
Frank Ntilikina ended the game with 7 points, 3 steals and +17 +/- in 23 minutes.
Here’s what head coach, Tom Thibodeau, said about Frank’s performance:
“It was matchups. I wanted to get a look at Frank. We have a lot of confidence in everyone on the roster. It was Frank’s opportunity, he went in and took advantage of it and played well. His defense was fantastic.’’
The entire team looked energized and free without Elfrid Payton strangling them on the floor. He is supposed to be considered a good defender but you don’t have to watch Ntilikina play for too long to recognize that he’s an astronomically better on-the-ball defender than Elfrid.
Elfrid has played 830 more minutes than Frank and has only made 8 more 3’s. The Knicks are 29th in 3-point attempts yet continue to run out a point guard who cannot shot outside of 12 feet from the basket.
I haven’t been shy about my hate for Derrick Rose. He is a horrible human who does not deserve to play in the NBA. That being said, is there anything Elfrid Payton does that Derrick Rose doesn’t do and do much better?
Start Rose. Bring Immanuel Quickley’s shooting and Frank Ntilikina’s defense off the bench together and the Knicks instantly have a better second unit backcourt than any team in the East.
Free. Frank. And drop Elfrid Payton into a volcano. Or trade him. Whichever.