SAN ANTONIO – It was a good time for the Knicks as two-way prospect Luka Samanic took home G-League Player of the Week honors on Tuesday while the Knicks were at Alamo City.
Samanic, a 2019 Spurs first-round pick that San Antonio cut in training camp, is second in the G-League with 29.2 points. Defense is its problem, as very flattering Spurs coach / president Gregg Popovich alluded to before the Knicks faced Spurs at the AT&T Center.
Asked by The Post how difficult it was to decide to remove Samanic in the third year of his rookie contract, Popovich admitted that the Knicks may have a player.
“He’s got a lot of talent,” Popovich said. “He’s done a good job at this point. The sky is the limit for him. If he sticks to it and does what he needs to do to improve defensively and become consistent. He’s a good boy and he’s very talented. The future is bright for him.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, when the Knicks signed a bilateral contract with 6-foot-10 Samanic, said it would just be “a G-League affair”, giving no indication he still wanted the Croatian striker with the big club.
But Samanic, 21, is turning heads. Thibodeau said he sees him all the time as the Westchester Knicks train at Tarrytown. Samanic averaged 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists this week.
“They train in the building, so I get to watch a bit,” Thibodeau said. “He’s had a good week, obviously. He is a good young prospect and he must keep working. I try to watch the practice and then get feedback on what they are doing. I also talk to their coaches.
When Spurs cut Samanic, the character and attitude were cited. A European scout recently told The Post that one problem was that he didn’t like the game.
Popovich is friends with Thibodeau but does not disclose if he recommended Samanic.
“Historically, we keep our conversations to ourselves and try not to share them with people like you,” Popovich said.
Popovich is stepping down from his post as US Olympic coach. Thibodeau has experience with Team USA, but he doesn’t seem to speak to officials. When asked if he threw his hat in the ring, Thibodeau replied, “You don’t throw your hat in the ring. They have the ring.
Popovich said Thibodeau would be a good choice.
“Oh sure there are a lot of guys who would be fantastic,” Popovich said. “There is one. This experience is awesome. The people we are looking at are all excellent candidates. Everyone will be happy with the final selection.
Thibodeau did not appear to be in talks with the United States.
“I enjoyed my experience and I’m sure there are a number of great candidates that they have,” he said. “So to anyone who has the opportunity to do this, I strongly suggest that they do it. ”