GREENBURGH, N.Y. — David Fizdale doesn’t plan to bring Kevin Knox along slowly. Fizdale said he would have no problem starting the Knicks’ first-round pick if he earns his spot.
This is a definite change in philosophy from last season, when the Knicks brought in veterans to mentor rookie Frank Ntilikina. Fizdale said he believes the 18-year-old Knox will be productive as a rookie and that he “absolutely” has a chance to start at small forward.
“I have no problem playing him, starting him, whatever winds up coming out of it,” Fizdale said Friday. “I wouldn’t have had no problem doing that with Frank. These guys got to swim now.
“Some of that means there’s going to be some bumps, but you learn faster by going through it. I feel very confident throwing these young guys out there and letting them go through the highs and lows of the league.”
The Knicks really pushed player development at Friday’s news conference introducing Knox and second-round pick Mitchell Robinson. Fizdale also said that when he looks at the Knicks’ roster, he doesn’t see a natural starting small forward.
Fizdale has a point: Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee started most nights at small forward last season and both are natural shooting guards. Fizdale indicated they’re not big enough to defend other small forwards.
“They’re both 6-5, and he’s going to have to guard LeBron [James] and [Kevin] Durant,” Fizdale said. “Those are the threes in our league.
“I feel like there’s an opportunity for him to have a chance to start. His body of work, his skill set says it, it fits, it translates. He can shoot the ball, he finishes well around the rim. He runs the floor well. He knows how to get to spots on the floor. Guys that are natural scorers, that stuff translates. When you have that kind of skill set at that height with that athleticism, I see him being a very productive player.”
Knox, who was drafted ninth overall, is 6-9 and still growing, but defense isn’t his strong suit. He’s more of a scorer than a defensive player. He believes, however, that he’s versatile enough to become an all-around player.
“I can play pretty much any position on the floor,” Knox said. “But with the league going where it’s going today, you see a lot of guys and wings playing the four, you see them playing the three. Those two positions are kind of where I see myself, being able to be everywhere on the floor, handle the ball, be off the ball, be able to shoot the ball.”
Fizdale said, “He’s just going to be a heck of a basketball player that I’m going to put at every position on the court.”
The Knicks aren’t sure what they have in Robinson, whom they took with the 36th pick, but they’re eager to find out.
Robinson didn’t play in college last year. He enrolled at Western Kentucky but then left school and trained to be ready in the NBA. The 7-footer has been compared to Houston’s Clint Capela, a strong defensive player who is adept at the pick-and-roll.
Fizdale said he watched a lot of tape of Robinson from high school. “His timing is incredible,” he said. “He has a great motor, super long. He has that instinct that Capela has. If everybody had it, they’d all do it. This kid was doing it very easily at a young age. Hopefully we can build on that, really give him a defined role, like a Capela type of guy.”
Both players the Knicks selected fill needs. They’re short on wing players and have some uncertainty at center.
Enes Kanter has an $18.6-million player option for next season that he has to make a decision on by next week. Kyle O’Quinn already has opted out. Kristaps Porzingis, who Fizdale envisions playing more center than he has in previous years, is out indefinitely as he recovers from a torn ACL.
Knox looks forward to playing with Porzingis, whenever that is. He said Porzingis FaceTimed him Thursday night after he was drafted and they talked about the fan reaction when they were picked. The fans’ chants for Michael Porter Jr. before Knox was taken were tame compared to the vitriol that accompanied the Porzingis selection.
“He asked me how the fans reacted and I told him I got the same amount of boos as you got,” Knox said. “So it was fun. He just laughed and he said, ‘It’s all motivation and fuel to the fire.’ He said, ‘Just work. Sooner or later they’ll be cheering for you.’ ”