As expected, the Knicks announced they exercised their third-year option on guard Frank Ntilikina, while the team will pass on extending Kristaps Porzingis’ rookie contract before Monday’s 6 p.m. deadline.
Porzingis will now become a restricted free agent after this season. The Knicks can match any offer made to their franchise forward, and waiting to extend him until the summer will allow the Knicks to save $10 million, increasing their odds of adding another max contract.
Ntilikina, who will make $4.9 million next season, remains in consideration to be the Knicks’ starting point guard in Wednesday’s opener against the Hawks.
David Fizdale declined to talk about Porzingis’ contract status, but lauded the injured star’s influence on the team, and believes the 23-year-old has bought into the Knicks’ long-term plans.
“Yeah, it’s been nothing to indicate anything different,” Fizdale said. “I’m always looking at it from a connection standpoint, and there is nothing that’s told me that there’s any disconnection. He’s having fun with these guys, he’s engaging with me, with the staff. I just see a teammate out there, I see a guy that’s just trying to contribute in any way he can. And to me, that says [he’s] a guy that’s engaged and locked in.
“All I know is he’s been awesome to have in the gym. It’s like having another coach. The film sessions, he speaks up as much as any coach on our staff. And what he has to say is exactly what we need said. He’s engaged in the practices, helping Mitchell [Robinson] along in a lot of this stuff. He’s kind of taken him on a little bit to fast-track him. And he asks great questions. Certain other guys are shy about asking a question, so KP will ask a question just to take that pressure off that guy. So that’s the part I’ve been paying attention to. How he’s been leading, how he’s been engaging and I’ll leave that other stuff to [the front office].”
Enes Kanter echoed his coach’s comments.
“He’s so involved in everything now, with practice, in games, with shootarounds, and when you see an All-Star guy just cheering for you, clapping for you, trying to talk to you, help you, it just gives you so much motivation,” Kanter said. “I’m happy to see him out there even if he’s not playing because he’s helping everybody so much.
“He knows we are not his teammates, we’re his family. We are his brothers. We love him here. Of course, who wouldn’t want him? I love the guy, not just on the court, off the court, he’s an amazing friend, and he’s been helping everybody out even when he’s not playing. Definitely, man, we’d love to have him here. It’s not a question.”