Kevin Knox is still working on his effort problem.
It was a knock on the 19-year-old in college, commonly labeled as ‘not having a high motor.’ And that has followed Knox to the NBA, with both he and coach David Fizdale acknowledging the issue Monday after practice.
“It’s up and down. Still learning how to consistently play at a high motor,” Fizdale said. “But you know that’s something you can work on and build and harp on and really try to push into him. That’s what we’re doing. Showing a lot of film to him.
“Opportunities where he could’ve cut, ran harder, did something with his athleticism. Because that’s the biggest thing that I’m trying to do is let his body go and do what he can naturally do and have confidence in that. But those takes reps, too.”
Of all the on-court goals in this spiraling Knicks season, nothing is more important than the development of Knox. The front office has staked its reputation on hitting that draft pick – ninth overall in June – and the (very) early returns have been, at best, inconsistent.
The 6-foot-9 forward certainly possesses all the physical tools of a modern NBA wing, but his shot has been suspect at just 33 percent. That’s not a big deal with the context that he’s only played 10 games, missing seven because of a sprained ankle.
But effort is not about rhythm or experience. It’s an attitude. A commitment. And Knox believes he can learn how to play harder.
“That’s something I’m working on,” he said. “A lot of people told me that coming out of college, but that’s not something that’s going to fix overnight.
“I have to get in shape, get conditioning, compete every day in practice. I think most of it is just competing offensively and defensively. But there are games when my motor is good, I just got to get it consistent.”
Knox and Tim Hardaway Jr. have the two worst defensive ratings on the Knicks. One play that encapsulated Knox’s struggles was near the end of Wednesday’s loss to the Thunder, when he turned the ball over and jogged gingerly back on defense while Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo attempted a dunk, one he missed.
“(The motor problem is) mostly defense. That’s something I’m really working on now,” Knox said. “Just being better defensively on the ball, off the ball. But like I said, that’s something that will come as I get older, start learning more, getting in more games, I’ll be able to get more comfortable.”
Knicks president Steve Mills understood that effort was an issue with Knox at Kentucky, and he emphasized it during their pre-draft interview. Mills was ultimately sold on Knox’s answers and his workout at the Knicks’ practice facility, which included high intensity drills against Michigan State prospect Miles Bridges.
“We were straight with him — we said, ‘We are only going to draft you if we start to get the feeling you want to be great and you want this bad,” Mills told ESPN Radio over the summer.