Knicks Look Overseas for Help With No. 8 Pick

Phil Jackson again looked overseas for the answer to the New York Knicks' woes.

The Knicks president selected Frank Ntilikina with the No. 8 pick Thursday night in the NBA draft, hoping to pair the athletic French guard with frustrated Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis as New York's team looks to end years of futility.

New York had several point guards to choose from, including North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr., selected ninth overall by the Dallas Mavericks, and Kentucky's Malik Monk, taken 11th by the Charlotte Hornets. Instead, the mercurial Jackson, chose to take an 18-year-old mostly unknown to a U.S. audience and the highest player drafted from the French professional league.

"It was one that I think we had to think about, argue about as staff," Jackson said of possible trades. "I like (the) size of this young man. I like his aptitude for the game, athleticism and actually the ability to incorporate himself in a winning type of a situation."

The Knicks also took guards Damyean Dotson from Houston with the 44th pick and Ognjen Jaramaz from Serbia with the 58th selection.

With Derrick Rose set to hit the free agency July 1 along with backup point guard Ron Baker, the Knicks' roster currently has Chasson Randle as its only point guard under control heading into next season.

Rose, a 2011 league MVP, has expressed his desire to come back to a team that finished the season 31-51 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

Jackson had mentioned the possibility of moving up a couple of spots in the draft with a blockbuster trade, but instead stood pat and took a player with an unusually large wingspan.

In Ntilikina, Jackson tabbed a young player who could fit into the triangle offense that Jackson wants to revive with the Knicks. He lauded the young point guard's mental makeup for how well he adjusted to a midseason shift in head coaches.

"He does some really nice things. He throws the ball up ahead on the court, he reads his teammates well, follows directions," said Jackson, whose Knicks have lost 171 games since March 18, 2014, when he was brought aboard to take charge of the organization's day-to-day decisions.

"He had to make substantial changes between the coaching change that he had with his team, played two different styles of a game which he incorporated himself into, a speed game and then more of a structured game - the one that's gotten him to the Finals in France," Jackson said. "He plays the role well, he's a good role player. I think he's a good fit for us."

Ntilikina, was born in Belgium and started playing professionally as a 15-year-old for Strasbourg's under-21 club before debuting two seasons ago for their senior team in the French Pro A league.

Instead of making the normal rounds with the media at the Knicks' training facility, after the draft Ntilikina was scheduled to return to France and join Strasbourg for a winner take-all Game 5 of the French League finals Friday night.

New York's latest find in the draft was greeted with mostly boos from Knicks fans at Barclays Center when his name was announced by commissioner Adam Silver. Several fans screamed "Fire, Phil!" as Ntilikina held a No. 17 jersey on stage.

Perhaps fans remembered the last time the Knicks took a French player. In 1999, the Knicks passed over Ron Artest with the No. 15 pick and instead chose Frederic Weis, who never played a game in the NBA and will be best remembered for being dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics.

"What I will bring to the Knicks, is actually a lot of hope," Ntilikina said. "I think I'm a player who will trust the process, work hard, and definitely try to be the best player I can be, who will give energy. I think I'm a team point guard and shooting guard actually. I'll just try to make my teammates be better every day, and I think I can play defense, too."

Ntilikina started 18 of 31 French Pro A games and averaged 5.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 18.5 minutes. He shot 47.3 percent from the field and hit 40.4 percent behind the 3-point line.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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