Watching Kevin Knox tear up the Summer League made it easy to abandon perspective, to forget two important truths: 1) the competition was basically at a G-League level, and 2) Kevin Knox just turned 19 years old in August.
In other words, everybody should slow their rolls and heed the warning of Knicks GM Scott Perry, who said after Knox looked like the second-coming of Giannis Antetokounmpo in Las Vegas: “It is what it is. It’s Summer League basketball.”
Knox was awoken abruptly to the next level in his first day of training camp. Both the rookie and coach David Fizdale acknowledged it was a rough adjustment.
“It is totally different from Summer League. I’m playing against guys who’ve been in the league eight, seven years, 12 years,” Knox said. “They move better, know some tricks and stuff, veteran tricks, so it’s a little bit different from Summer League.
“Tactics, pace, offensively, defensively, just moves and a lot of stuff doesn’t work like it does in Summer League. You just got to be able to adjust to it.”
Knox, according to Fizdale, looked more comfortable the next two days of training camp, including Thursday. But with preseason and training camp cut to just three weeks because the league wanted to stretch out the regular season to provide more off days, there isn’t much time for Knox to continue that progression before Oct. 17 against the Hawks.
His unveiling against the next level of competition — in the preseason opener Monday at Washington — will be an intriguing test. Knox is the best reason for Knicks fans to watch.
“It’ll be my first official NBA game so it will be pretty fun,” Knox said. “It will be a little bit nerves going into that game, little butterflies, but once we get going and the game gets going and I get the flow of it — it will be a lot better.”
Knox has to be a foundation player or else the Knicks failed. It’s that simple. They traded Carmelo Anthony and punted last season so they could draft a wing of Knox’s caliber. They have steadfastly refused to give up their draft picks in trades – dating back to Phil Jackson – because they rightfully placed more value on the future than previous regimes.
Steve Mills and Scott Perry have labeled themselves and their staff as player development aficionados. So they need to hit their draft picks. A year after Mills and Jackson picked Frank Ntilikina, it’s unclear if the guard will be anything more than a defensive specialist.
But Knox has to be more. We can’t expect the dominance of the Summer League because there’s a learning curve attached to every step up in level. But with the way the roster is built, Knox should have every opportunity to grow and play through his mistakes.
Just like he has already in training camp.
“The first practice I (noticed it was a difficult adjustment for Knox),” Fizdale said. “The next practice it was right back to him looking like he belongs. I think these guys are going to catch on pretty quick. With his talent level it was just a matter of feeling the physicality of the veterans and understand, OK, this is a little different. But once he got his mind wrapped around it he’s been competing his tail off.”