TORONTO — The lessons on the court for Kevin Knox in his rookie season have been harsh at times. Most of them have been like Monday night, when he was part of another one-sided loss.
A day after the Knicks snapped an eight-game losing streak with an unlikely finish, they were humiliated by a shorthanded Toronto squad, 128-92.
The lesson Monday came one minute and five seconds into the second half when Knicks coach David Fizdale yanked all five starters after they gave up a 10-0 run to fall behind by 29.
It was a much more pleasant lesson Sunday afternoon, as Knox got to talk with one of the greatest players in NBA history.
After the Knicks beat the Lakers, he was heading out to meet his family with his bags in hand. He got a call from team security to report to Fizdale’s office, and he knew what that meant.
“I knew if Fiz wanted to see me, it was something important,” Knox said. “So you can’t say no to head coach. When I saw him, he was calling me out there, so yeah, OK, I must be going to meet LeBron.”
It was the meeting that Fizdale had been trying to negotiate for much of the season, putting Knox in a conversation with LeBron James, Fizdale’s friend and a player he worked with for years as a Heat assistant coach.
“I put my stuff down,” Knox said. “I was like, my family can wait. They can wait for this opportunity. My parents, they weren’t mad at all. I told them who I was talking to and they were like, that was great. Appreciate Fiz for giving me the opportunity. Not a lot of coaches have that luxury to be able to introduce their rookies and young players to some of the veterans like he does.”
“I just ran down there, pulled him out of an interview,” Fizdale said. “He just ran over and wanted to talk to the kid. I think it was 10 to 12 good minutes for Kevin, just listening and learning, taking it from a guy who’s pretty much seen it all.”
It might not have seemed like the best time for the meeting to occur, coming shortly after James had his potential game-winning runner blocked by Mario Hezonja with 2.3 seconds left in the Knicks’ 124-123 win. James shot 4-for-15 in the fourth quarter and the Knicks ran off a 13-1 burst in the final 3:45.
“It was crazy. He was all smiles after the game,” Knox said. “I was telling him about social media, that I had deleted the apps and stuff like that, and he was basically telling me, ‘Yeah, man, what if I went on social media and looked at the comments of me getting my shot blocked by Mario?’
“He started laughing and he was just like, all that stuff is just poison. He was like, ‘I’m not even going to go on social media. I mean, it’s just one game. I’ve got a lot more games left.’ He’s like, ‘You’ve got to be able to put stuff back in the past. You’re not going to make every single game-winning shot.’ He just had a positive attitude, even after a loss and a great block by Mario. He had a positive attitude and just gave me as much advice as he could.”
Knox said he got some tips from James on what he needs to work on besides avoiding the critics on social media.
“Yeah, something that I’m getting better at — he’s one of the best probably of all time in just getting everyone involved and being able to score,” Knox said. “So he was just basically saying you’ve got to be able to impact the game other than scoring. He said he’s watched a me a lot, that’s something I’m getting better at, but it’s something I’ve got to improve. That’s something I’ll definitely work on this summer. He’s one of the greatest to ever do it. Just getting in the lab this summer, finish out the season strong and just try to get my teammates involved.''
Notes & quotes: The Raptors rested Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka served the final game of his suspension and Kyle Lowry left in the third quarter with ankle soreness . . . Allonzo Trier had 22 points off the bench for the Knicks. Jeremy Lin had 20 points off the bench and Pascal Siakam added 19 to lead eight Raptors in double figures. Toronto scored 73 points in the first half . . . The Knicks (14-57), who have the worst record in the NBA, remained 2 1/2 games behind the Suns (17-55).