Knicks Mailbag: On the coaching search, Frank Ntilikina's future, and more

Ian Begley

Here's our weekly Knicks mailbag with SNY's NBA Insider Ian Begley...

@NYCitee: Do you think Thibs is still the favorite as head coach?

People with a vested interest in the coaching search have thought for weeks that Leon Rose is most likely to hire Tom Thibodeau. I know that there is legitimate support within the organization for Kenny Atkinson, but I haven't heard anything that's led me to think Thibodeau isn't the most-likely hire.

Things can -- and often do -- change during the interview and negotiation process. So I wouldn't rule out the other candidates at this point.

But if the Knicks end up hiring Thibodeau, there will be concern among Knicks fans about the head coach. And it's understandable, particularly with the way things ended in Minnesota.

It didn't go the way Thibodeau or the T-Wolves expected. And it's totally fair to judge Thibodeau based on the end in Minnesota.

But it's worth noting that Thibodeau wouldn't be taking on the role of president in New York, as he did with the Timberwolves. That's Rose's job.

So Thibodeau's focus would solely be on coaching. That was Thibodeau's role with Chicago, and it worked out pretty well for the Bulls. Just something worth considering as you analyze his candidacy.

Also, reports from Thibodeau's time in Chicago indicated that he and upper-management didn't have a good working relationship. You can assume that won't be a problem in New York because Rose and Thibodeau have a close relationship.

Atkinson, Mike Woodson, interim head coach Mike Miller and Thibodeau are all expected to speak to the Knicks during the coaching search. Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd also have fans in the organization, but it's unclear if they will get interviews during the search.

@NYCitee: Do you think there will be an NBA season?

Yes. Based on what we heard from people in the aftermath of Friday's call among players to discuss the resumption of the season, it doesn't seem that the NBA restart will be derailed.

Different players have different concerns about the potential restart. Some don't want to take away momentum from the movement against systemic inequalities in our country in the wake of George Floyd's death. Others have concerns over their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

I believe that NBA commissioner Adam Silver will work with the union to address some of those concerns, and the season will resume.

If players decide, collectively, not to return to the court, there will be significant financial implications. They will lose salary this year, but it goes well beyond that.

The league would likely lose a significant amount of money in revenue -- even more than is projected due to the coronavirus crisis and the imbroglio with China over Daryl Morey's tweet in the beginning of the season.

That, in turn, would lower the salaries for future free agents.

Video: Melo could be a free agency target for the Knicks

The current collective bargaining agreement could be aborted, leaving the players open to a more onerous agreement in the future.

I'm not suggesting those financial reasons will ultimately cause the players to decide to play in Orlando. I think some will opt against playing. But I think there will be enough players who choose to play, so the games will go on.

However, if the players decide collectively that they want to take on that financial risk to further the push for a change in our society, I think they should be commended. That would be a significant sacrifice in pursuit of what they feel is right.

@NYSportscast: Do the Knicks view Frank Ntilikina s a role player or a vital piece for their future?

Does it have to be one or the other? I think you can view Ntilikina as a role player and a vital piece for the future at the same time. Ntilikina has already showed that he can defend. If he can consistently knock down a perimeter shot, I think he becomes an incredibly valuable role player on a contending team.

Ntilikina is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is playing his first full season under Rose. So how he plays in 2020-21 will go a long way toward how Rose and the Knicks view him in a big-picture sense.

With regards to Ntilikina's immediate future, I don't think the Knicks will aggressively shop him in the manner that they did prior to the 2019 NBA Draft. But I also don't think he -- or any other Knick -- is off limits in trade talks.

@Ezra_Schechter: If the season is canceled does Mitchell Robinson beat Wilt's record for best FG% ever in a season?

I checked with someone at the NBA earlier this month and there still was no decision made on how records would be handled this season.


Thanks for your questions, everyone. Much appreciated. If I didn't answer your question here or in a video, I will try my best to get to it in a future mailbag or video.

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