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August 20, 2019

Inconsistency for Knicks’ Kevin Knox but rookie still shows potential for promising future

March 19, 2019

Five months into his rookie season, we still know very little about Kevin Knox. Perhaps that should be expected since he’s only 19-years-old, but his inconsistency has generated such a wide outlook it’s impossible to separate the encouraging signs from fantasy.

One night Knox is going off for 31, then the next five he’s shooting a combined 13-for-51 (that actually happened this season). His stroke is sweet and he has the tools of a solid scorer, but the efficiency is abysmal (36.5 percent shooting heading into Monday), and the defense is a statistical mess.

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Knox’s defensive rating of 114.2 was not only last on the Knicks before Monday’s game at Toronto, it was fourth-worst among NBA starters who’ve been in the opening lineup at least 40 times.

Still, David Fizdale long ago settled on the idea that there is no end to Knox’s leash and it’s better to have him struggle than observe from the bench. Frank Ntilikina, not coincidentally drafted by Phil Jackson, probably wishes he got the same chance.

“He’s had his bumps,” Fizdale said of Knox. “We know it’s in there. It’s just a matter of him, the ball going in and him getting his confidence up.”

There have been six major moves from team president Steve Mills since he usurped Phil Jackson. Trading Kristaps Porzingis is by far the most important. Beyond that, there was signing Tim Hardaway Jr., hiring Scott Perry, trading Carmelo Anthony, hiring David Fizdale and drafting Kevin Knox ninth overall last year.

In other words, this regime has a lot invested in Knox and would be validated by his rise. Before Monday, he was fifth among all NBA rookies in field goal attempts and sixth in minutes played. But he was just seventh in field goals made, 19th in assists, 20th in blocks and 14th in steals

Kevin Knox (r.) has had an inconsistent tenure with the Knicks. (Darren Abate / AP)

Before Sunday’s 19-point performance against the Lakers on 8-of-14 shooting, Knox hadn’t scored that many points while making at least half his field goals since January 13 — more than a two-month span.

“Hello, Kevin Knox,” coach David Fizdale said afterwards. “It was good to see him play well.”

Knox’s positive night was largely built in the first quarter when he scored 13. But he also played the entire fourth quarter and contributed to the Knicks’ improbable comeback to topple LeBron James.

“Yeah, I’ve been struggling a little bit,” said Knox. “The whole team and coaching staff had confidence in me. I just came in to work every single day, got up extra shots. I knew I was going to come out of this streak. I just wanted to make sure I kept shooting, stay aggressive and keep shooting my shots. I knew they’d fall eventually.”

The key is getting them to fall consistently, which hasn’t happened this season for Knox. But there have been enough flashes to glean positives about the potential, if not the initial product.

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