Vincent Goodwill: Although David Fizdale is the front-runner for the Knicks job, David Blatt and Mark Jackson are still firmly in the running, according to sources
According to a person debriefed on the situation, the Knicks inquired about Smith before the season but “not recently.” It’s known some members of the organization rated Smith higher than Ntilikina before the 2017 draft.
A young Elie Okobo did not watch Saturday-morning cartoons before heading to his basketball games. He watched replays of San Antonio Spurs games broadcast from thousands of miles away, dazzled by fellow Frenchman and point guard Tony Parker. Less than two weeks ago, Okobo sat down at swanky Scottsdale seafood restaurant Ocean 44 to share a postgame dinner with Parker. The two had just guarded each other in Charlotte’s win at Phoenix. Parker’s teammate, Nic Batum, and former Suns and Spurs player Boris Diaw joined them. The meal epitomized the bond NBA players from France share, even when they are opponents on the floor or their playing careers have concluded. Okobo, aka “Young Frenchie,” is the latest to join that club, already contributing to the Suns as a rookie and occasionally matching up against his childhood idol. “I want to be this guy one day, the guy that the (French) kids look up to,” Okobo said. “I think I’m on my way. I gotta keep working.”
Diaw understands Okobo’s first-year learning curve in both the NBA and the U.S. Through frequent text exchanges, Diaw preaches patience, strong work ethic and reacting positively to adversity such as sporadic playing time and mounting losses for this young Suns team. “Little by little, I think (Okobo) can be somebody that they can count on for on-ball defense, as well as being able to spark some offense,” Diaw said. “He’s somebody that’s pretty versatile and can do different things on the court. … What he can control is how he’s practicing every day (and) how he wants to learn.”
Okobo was most impressed with how Parker calmly used ball screens and surveyed the defense for large chunks of the shot clock. Parker, meanwhile, praised Okobo’s potential — and that his lefty handle and shot makes him “a pain in the butt to guard.” “He’s got all the tools to be a good point guard in this league …” Parker said. “Then, it’s all about getting opportunities and making sure he gets a coach who can trust him.”
January 19, 2019 | 11:21 am EST Update
Despite the Knicks’ clear lack of confidence in Ntilikina, teams have inquired about the 20-year-old, with the Magic and Suns expressing interest, according to a source. And this is where it gets interesting. There seems to be a debate within the Knicks on whether to deal Ntilikina. He was drafted by Mills and has supporters in the front office.
Defense remains an issue for Kanter but his skillset — top-level rebounding and inside scoring — is such that he can help a playoff team off the bench. The Knicks are actively trying to deal the 26-year-old international, who is coping with a very public and emotionally taxing battle with the Turkish government. Kanter has an $18 million expiring contract that could be a vehicle to acquiring an asset (draft pick, young player), which is the Knicks’ preference. However, the market has not been robust. There had been preliminary discussions involving the Knicks taking back Jabari Parker, but there needed to be a third team to take Kanter.