Mike Miller has theory about Frank Ntilikina’s Knicks setback

For all of the promising games Frank Ntilikina has turned in this season, Saturday’s loss to the 76ers was one of his more pedestrian.

The Knicks point guard finished with just five points (on 2 of 8 shooting), three rebounds, two turnovers and no assists while playing 16:30 in the 90-87 loss at the Garden.

Ntilikina was playing his second game after missing a pair of games with a sore groin. Interim coach Mike Miller indicated the layoff might have been a factor.

“I thought he played really well on the West Coast trip. Then he was out for two games,” Miller said Sunday after a brief practice. “During that time, he wasn’t able to practice. Then you’ve got to come back and kind of reestablish your rhythm and get back into a game flow. That’s what he’s doing right now.

“He’s approached every day the same way. He comes in and works. He’s shown development in areas, certainly. His assists numbers are up. That’s the biggest thing, is he’s setting up baskets consistently when he’s out there with the second unit.”

A groin injury derailed Ntilikina’s season last year, forcing him to miss 32 of the Knicks’ final 34 games. But he said Thursday that last year’s issue was “much more serious.”

In 12 games since losing the starting job to Elfrid Payton, the defensive-minded Ntilikina is averaging 6.6 points and 3.6 assists in 17.3 minutes per game. Saturday, he recorded a minus-16 while Payton (10 points on 5 of 14 shooting, seven rebounds and seven assists) was plus-13, but Miller said plus/minus can sometimes be misleading.

“You take a look at it, but you really have to look at what the production was and how was he doing his job and executing what the team needed at that time,” Miller said.


Dennis Smith Jr. (strained oblique) will miss his 13th straight game on Monday against the Cavaliers, but the Knicks could know more about his status by Tuesday after he is reevaluated by the medical staff.

“He is progressing well,” Miller said. “He has been practicing some. With games every day, we haven’t practiced anything steady. So he’s been able to get some practices in, but not a lot of contact and not much full court.”


The Knicks’ three-point loss to the 76ers on Saturday came after back-to-back losses of 20-plus points.

“It’s very confusing,” Payton said of the team’s inconsistency. “If I had the answers, we’d be alright. Just trying to figure out what’s that thing that makes us go.”


The Knicks assigned Ignas Brazdeikis to G-League Westchester. The rookie has played in only nine games with the Knicks this season while averaging 19.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 12 games with Westchester.

For more on the Knicks, listen to the latest episode of the “Big Apple Buckets” podcast:

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