LOS ANGELES — It was getting close to the ball dropping in Times Square when Kevin Knox left the court at the Knicks' practice facility.
Last season, when he was earning NBA Rookie of the Month honors, he might have taken the day as a chance to rest. But in what has been a strange sophomore season with the Knicks, Knox has to get in his work -- and shots -- when he can.
“Yeah, my family was here,” Knox said. “So I was with my little brothers and my little sister. We went and got shots up that day. We left around 11, 11:15. My mom wanted to see the ball drop.”
Last season as a lottery pick, Knox was handed the ball and given every opportunity to serve as the primary option on a Knicks team that was just waiting to be dismantled at season’s end. Veterans were benched or cut loose and most of the roster just served as placeholders for the salary-cap space the team hoped to use to acquire stars. Knox started 57 games last season, averaging 28.8 minutes and 12.2 field-goal attempts per game.
But this season, while the Knicks didn’t get the star power the franchise sought, they did acquire veterans who were more accomplished than last year’s group. So Marcus Morris claimed the starting small forward spot with Julius Randle at power forward and rookie RJ Barrett at shooting guard. And Knox has been left to try to find his opportunities.
He has started only four games, chances that came with injuries (and one could come Tuesday night against the Lakers; Morris is listed as probable after sitting out practice Monday with a sore neck). He is averaging only 6.7 shots and 19.4 minutes per game. On Sunday against the Clippers, he played a season-low six minutes, all in the first half.
“The rotations just got a little tough, nothing crazy,” Knox said. “Guys played hard. I was happy on the bench. I was out there supporting my teammates, clapping for them, cheering them on. Nothing crazy. Just rotations, something that happened.
“I stay locked in. The people in my circle always tell me to stay locked in. Don’t get too down. They know I’ve got a lot of work to do. I know myself that I’ve got a lot to do.There’s nothing I’m going to sulk or cry about on the bench, the end of the bench, go on Twitter or Instagram ranting about it. I stay locked in and support my teammates. I come to practice every day, push the guys, try to get better, learn from the vets. So I always stay positive. No matter what I’m going through during the season or in life, I always try to stay positive.”
The Knicks hope that Knox is learning from playing behind Morris.
“I think it’s great,” interim coach Mike Miller said. “I think it’s very helpful. When we talk about development, that’s another way to learn. The fact that they compete during the reps in practice and shootarounds and all those kinds of things and he can learn and pick things up from him, it’s really a big thing.”
Notes & quotes: Elfrid Payton was not with the team for Monday’s practice, still home with his newborn daughter. Miller said the team was waiting to hear from him about whether he will make it back for Tuesday’s game.