GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Maybe someday soon the Knicks will rely on the play of rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier. But after two games in the starting lineup for the three, Knicks coach David Fizdale said he again might make some changes.
In losing their fifth straight game Sunday, the Knicks gave up 44 first-quarter points and a season-worst 131 by the Magic. Fizdale would like to raise the ability of the youngsters to defend and avoid foul trouble — and prod lottery pick Knox to play at full throttle for the entire game.
Fizdale removed Robinson and Trier to begin the second half Sunday, replacing them with big men Enes Kanter and Noah Vonleh. And as for Knox?
“Up and down,” Fizdale said of his effort level. “Still learning how to consistently play at a high motor. 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 take reps, too.”
Knox, who entered the league with a reputation of having an inconsistent motor, understands his coach’s criticism. “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’s games when my motor is good. I just got to get it consistent and play at a high level.”
The Trail Blazers arrive at the Garden on Tuesday as one of the top teams in the Western Conference. They boast one of the most talented backcourts in the game with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who are averaging a combined 47.4 points per game. His first answer of how to stop the duo was “prayer,” but Fizdale said a change in the lineup might help. Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson, the Knicks’ best perimeter defenders, were removed from the starting lineup to make room for the rookies last week.
“What I’m seeing, too, is, with the young guys especially, is that they get quick fouls,” Fizdale said. “They get the touch fouls. They get the grab fouls because they don’t have the habits. When they get those quick fouls, it really puts me in a tough spot so I gotta look at that situation with those guys to see if it’s even smart to have them out there that first four, five minutes of the game just from that standpoint.”