You’ll have to excuse me.
I studied Spanish at Canarsie High School so I don’t know the French word for courage.
You don’t drain two clutch 3s in the final seven minutes of the biggest early-season game of the season, in the World’s Most Famous Arena, and not have the kind of toughness needed to become a star in this league.
With the scored tied, 99-99, Ntilikina found himself wide open on the right wing. Kristaps Porzingis had risen up to take a 3 when Darren Collison cheated off Ntilikina and went to double KP.
How Porzingis spotted Ntilikina is amazing in its own right. He was at the zenith of his shot when the face of the Knicks saw the rookie and passed.
Let’s repeat that: The face of the Knicks – who scored a career-high 40 points – opted to pass to a rookie instead of shoot.
Somewhere, Red Holzman is smiling. This is the kind of offensive team basketball the Knicks played when they won their two NBA titles in the early ’70s.
OK. Getting ahead.
Ntilikina took the pass from the KP and calmly, professionally, stepped into the 3. Nothing but net. The Knicks (5-4), down by as much as a 19, had a 102-99 lead they wouldn’t surrender in a 108-101 win.
Porzingis led the way with his first 40-point game, making those chants of “MVP! MVP!” realistic.
Ntilikina, just 19, showed he’s as fearless as any criminal in The French Connection.
“It says a ton about him and the way he plays with confidence,’’ Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s not afraid of the moment, and it doesn’t look like he’s afraid of anything.”
That’s one trait that can’t be measured at combines or workouts or studied on film. Just because a player isn’t afraid of the moment in college or overseas doesn’t mean he won’t wilt under the glare of the NBA.
Here’s additional proof that Ntilikina is fearless. After making a 3 with 6:33 remaining that brought the Knicks to within 92-86, he missed a 3 with 2:53 left.
The Knicks, leading 97-96, needed a good shot. Ntilikina took his early in the shot clock.
It screamed ROOKIE MISTAKE!
But Ntilikina didn’t blink. When KP found him on the wing, with every fan at The Garden waiting to exhale, Ntilikina was ice.
“He grew up,’’ Knicks veteran guard Courtney Lee said of Ntilikina. “He grew up this game. He’s been playing well when he’s getting in, but tonight was different. He seized the moment.
“He grew up right in front of us today, man. Big Frank! He’s on that building for a reason, man.”
He’s pictured on a giant billboard a block away from The Garden. Like KP, he can be more than an NBA star. He can be an international sensation.
It looks Frank Ntilikina's Nike billboard outside of Madison Square Garden is complete: pic.twitter.com/VHUzRma9Vy
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 21, 2017
With his 6-foot-5 height, 7-foot wingspan and high basketball IQ, Ntilikina’s potential has been compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo. This is a lot to heap on any rookie.
It certainly can be a galactic burden for a young player that is trying to figure out the NBA in the world’s largest media market. Some Knicks fans weren’t that thrilled with the team taking Ntilikina with the No. 8 pick. There were other point guards available and Ntilikina seemed too frail in size.
Too frail. After Big Frank! hit his Big Shot, we can scratch frail. He had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 7 assists, 3 steals and one fearless 3 in almost 24 minutes.
We should have gotten that hint that Big Frank! is not afraid any moment. When Ntilikina showed up on draft night in a dazzling three-piece suit and bowtie, he might have been bright-eyed, but he was ready for the bright lights of Broadway.
“I’m really happy for what I did in this game,’’ Ntilikina said. And for what we did in this game, first of all. It was a game that we can learn a lot from.
“I have the confidence, but being comfortable on the court takes time. I know I can definitely do better and I will work to do better in the future. But I think this game tonight is a little step, what I look forward to doing in the future.”