CHICAGO — There is still one game left, Wednesday’s season finale to be played before the rookie season for Kevin Knox is complete, but the 19-year old has already been handed a blueprint for summer, what the Knicks expected from him this summer and beyond.
After scoring 17 points and getting 10 rebounds as the Knicks avoided sole possession of the worst record in franchise history with a 96-86 win over the depleted Bulls, there are still 48 minutes between this rookie season and what comes next.
For the team they managed to win their 17th game, assuring them of at least a tie with the 17-65 win season of four years ago. For Knox, there were the obvious plans — getting stronger with work in the weight room, lifting himself from the ranks near the bottom of defensive players in the NBA and continuing to expand his scoring ability. But there was something else, too.
It didn’t create the what did we just witness buzz of the unlikely triple-double by Mario Hezonja as he played out the likely end of his Knicks career, but as he made his way through the final games of his rookie season Knox hit a milestone, too.
Sunday in the Knicks win over Washington Knox had numbers in some ways that are pedestrian for him this season, 16 points and seven rebounds. But he handed out five assists, a new season high for him. That may not seem like much, but when you consider he went through 28 of his first 73 games played in the NBA without a single assist, this game appeared far different.
“Yeah, we had some guys that were knocking down some shots,” Knox said after the Knicks morning shootaround at the United Center. “Me and Rio both had five assists. We were just trying to share the game. We did a really good job that game of just really sharing the game, passing, knocking down shots. It was probably one of my better games as far as passing. I just want to be able to show people that side of basketball.”
“He’s starting to put it together a little bit from a standpoint of doing a little bit of everything, especially moving the ball,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “He’s doing a good job of finding guys and getting guys good looks at the rim. It’s also nice to see him whenever he gets seven-plus rebounds. It’s always a good thing. The offensive part of it – shooting and scoring – is not as much what I’m worried about. He’ll be able to do that fine. We’ll continue to build him in other areas.”
The Knicks insist they are pleased with what they have gotten from Knox, who was taken with the No. 9 overall pick last summer. His numbers are not great — 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, shooting just 37.2 percent from the floor before Tuesday -- and that may have no small effect on the Knicks heading into the postseason with the worst record in basketball.
Those numbers have ticked upward since the All-Star break, a time when he not only spent time in Charlotte for the weekend alongside some of the NBA’s best players, but also sat down for breakfast with Knicks general manager Scott Perry. The message from the executive to Knox was to play more efficiently.
“I sat down with Scott Perry,” Knox said last week. “That’s one of the things that they wanted me to do this second half of the season, try to be more efficient and try to put up numbers as well. That’s just something I’ve been focused on. Some games I’ve been very efficient, some games I haven’t. That’s one of the main things I’ve been focused on.”
Notes & quotes: Mario Hezonja was a late scratch (illlness) and Dennis Smith Jr. got the start at point guard and led the Knicks with 25 points … Fizdale said that Emmanuel Mudiay, nursing an assortment of minor injuries, would sit out the final two games. “He really played through a lot of different nagging injuries,” Fizdale said. “It just got to a place that it wasn’t worth that risk to put him in. He had done enough for our organization from that standpoint. I think it’s the right thing to do by a guy who is in a contract year is to not risk him to get hurt, whether he signs with us or somewhere else it’s only the fair thing.” . . . Kadeem Allen, going through concussion protocol, traveled to Chicago but did not play. He said that he will be evaluated again Wednesday and hopes to play in the finale.