The education of the Knicks’ youngsters bears positive potential

Jaime C. Harris | 4/4/2019, 11:42 a.m.
When Kevin Knox scored a career high 31 points against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 13, ...
Kevin Knox Bill Moore photo

When Kevin Knox scored a career high 31 points against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 13, shooting 12-23, in a 108-105 Knicks loss, the promise of the 19-year-old rookie was palpable.

“Just got to continue to work, continue to get better every single day,” Knox said after his impressive showing. “I watch a lot of film so I can continue the progress. I’m just being more aggressive, playing more inside, trying to get to the free throw line as much as possible and knocking down shots on the perimeter.”

From his promising performance in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas last July, the signs were evident that Knox, chosen ninth overall in the first round by the Knicks in last June’s draft, possessed the tools to be a highly productive player in the years to come. But as the second youngest player in the league behind the Memphis Grizzlies Jaren Jackson Jr., who is also 19, Knox’s physical maturity and knowledge of the NBA game were expected weaknesses that would reveal themselves on any given night.

Inconsistency was also anticipated and Knox’s first year, like those of fellow Knicks rookies Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, has trended up and down. After a strong December in which he averaged 17.1 points per game and 34.9 minutes in 14 games, the 6-foot-9 Knox, who entered the draft after his freshman season at the University of Kentucky, struggled with his confidence and efficiency in late February and the early and middle stages of March, ending the month with an average of 12.9 points and seeing his minutes dip to 28.6 in 14 games.

But in his 10 games prior to facing the Orlando Magic on the road last night (Wednesday), Knox has put up 15.5 points per game, including 19 on Monday night at the Garden against the Chicago Bulls. Knicks head coach David Fizdale said Knox’s game and growth have evolved.

“He’s going through a lap pretty much,” observed Fizdale following the Knicks’ 113-105 win over the Bulls, improving their NBA lowest record to 15-62. “He’s seen the worst of it, he’s had some high moments and now I think it’s all settling in a little bit.”

Fizdale noted to a reporter, “He’s knowing, exactly like you said, when to go, when not to go, what spots on the floor he can get his shots at, where his outlets are, when he doesn’t have it or he doesn’t have the home run play.

“You know, again, we’re watching the growth of a 19-year-old. He won’t be 20 for awhile [Aug. 11]. So I think he’s just going to keep getting better and better.” All things considered, the Knicks’ trio of Knox, Robinson and Trier have comprised an encouraging rookie class.