CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Frank Ntilikina had finally gotten his chance to start at point guard. And it’s been lost for now.
Ntilikina’s groin injury suffered in the first half Sunday against Miami could shelve him for as much as two weeks, according to coach David Fizdale.
With starter Emmanuel Mudiay out two to three weeks with a shoulder strain, this was a real chance for Ntilikina to be evaluated in a big way, especially with the Feb. 7 trade deadline looming. Trey Burke, who was out of the rotation until the Mudiay injury, will start for the foreseeable future and scored nine points in 25 minutes in Monday’s 101-92 loss to the Hornets.
“They say it’s a strain,” Fizdale said. “Those groins are weird. He’s young. It could be a short amount of time. I don’t see it being extended. It could be a week or two. I don’t see it being a very long time.”
In two seasons, the Knicks 2017 lottery pick had started at point guard just six times — and none this season before Friday’s loss to the Nets. That outing was ruined by foul trouble as Ntilikina fouled out in 18 minutes.
People close to Ntilikina feel he hasn’t been afforded a large enough opportunity considering he’s a high lottery pick. Fizdale heaped praise on Ntilikina on Sunday night, saying he had played excellently on both sides of the ball before getting injured.
For the fourth straight game, Fizdale kept Lance Thomas in the starting lineup at power forward over banished Enes Kanter in a small-ball alignment, saying he’s “setting the defensive tone.’’ It was the fourth straight game Kanter didn’t see any action but, while he still is waiting to be moved, he has toned down his rhetoric.
“I’m making my teammates better and helping young guys, being a good teammate and staying in shape,’’ Kanter said. “I’m working on my body. It’s my eighth year in this league. My job now is to try to help the young guys as much as I can.’’
Ex-Knick Willy Hernangomez has reclaimed a rotation spot and put up a double-double against the team that drafted him with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. … The Knicks mustered just 19 assists and shot only 40 percent from the field.