Kevin Knox learned lessons the hard way as a rookie, thrust into a starring role on a Knicks squad built to collect as many Ping-Pong balls as possible in the NBA Draft Lottery. Now, Knox is back and hoping to use those lessons and slights as motivation in his sophomore season.
There were high points for Knox, earning Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors in December, a 31-point night against Philadelphia and in January, a 26-point, 15-rebound performance against Charlotte. And there were low points, so many low points as the ball was put in his hands at 19 years old and enduring the lessons of a 17-win season.
The season got him 22 second-team All-Rookie votes, not enough to make the second team — an accomplishment his teammate, Mitchell Robinson, who was a second-round pick, earned. But there was not surprisingly not one first team vote and Knox said he’s carrying that with him into this season.
“Yeah, of course I deserved to make it,” Knox said in a conference call following Knicks practice in preparation for Friday night’s Las Vegas Summer League opening game. “I mean, I don’t want to get into no details, but that definitely was motivation. I worked hard this summer. That was kind of a chip on my shoulder for me to work hard this summer.
“So just go out and compete hard at every single rep in my workout and just get a lot better. [It’s] definitely motivation. I’ll use it for summer and I’m going to keep using it for next year because this team has a lot of young guys with a chip on their shoulders so it’s going to help us out a lot.”
The Knicks got a makeover in free agency with six new faces signing on, but it is this year’s lottery pick, RJ Barrett, who figures to provide the most immediate help for Knox. Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick, arrives with even higher expectations than Knox did.
“Yeah, he’s a very aggressive player,” Knox said. “Both of us are very strong players. He’s a really good passer, so he can help me get some shots, I can help him get some shots. We’ve just got to keep working together so we keep getting the chemistry that we need for the season.
“We’re both really good players. He’s a really aggressive player. He’s a really underrated passer. He makes the right pass, tries to find the open teammate. When he fills in transition that’s something this young team is going to do really well this season is running fast breaks because we’ve got young legs to get up and down, get some lobs, get some dunks in there. We’re both very athletic, so I think just the things we’re going to go through these practices and in summer league, play a couple games in summer league and we’ll go from there.”
While Knox has not even turned 20 years old, he said he does feel as if he has benifited from that rookie season, taking the hard-learned lessons and changing what he will show on the court this season.
“I just feel so much more comfortable on the court now,” he said. “I mean I feel stronger, I have a little bit more head on my shoulders. I feel like just having a year under my belt I can watch a lot of film now on what I need to work on and what I need to get better at. So I just feel a lot more stronger, a lot better on the court, a lot more confident and more of a leader, so I can talk and help some of the other guys out.
“I learned a lot my rookie season. I think the biggest one was just the pace of the game, just playing at the right pace, not playing at 100 miles an hour. Everyone in the league does a really good job of playing their own pace, so I think that’s something I learned throughout the season and something I’m going to take into next season.”