In a span of two days, the Knicks have gone from being absent during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend to sending two players to represent the franchise as Kevin Knox was added to the Rising Stars Challenge Wednesday, joining newcomer Dennis Smith Jr., who will compete in the slam-dunk competition.
Knox was selected as a replacement on the U.S. squad for the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, who is rehabilitating from an ankle injury and was unavailable. Knox originally was passed over with just three rookies making the U.S. team: Trae Young of the Hawks, the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Grizzlies. Knox will join two members of the Nets in the game — Jarrett Allen, who will team with him on the U.S. side, and rookie Rodions Kurucs, who will play for the World team. Joe Harris also will represent the Nets in the three-point contest.
Knox, the 19-year-old rookie, has had his ups and downs this season, but did earn Eastern Conference rookieof the month honors in December and is averaging 12.5 points per game.
The Knicks were willing to pass on the opportunity for Knox to rest to acclimate the player they believe is a future All-Star to the star culture. Coach David Fizdale had spoken of trying to get Knox around some of the league’s superstars, particularly those whom the coach already has relationships with like LeBron James.
Frank Ntilikina played last season for the World squad, but did not get the nod this time around as he has suffered through another inconsistent season. Rookies Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson as well as sophomore Damyean Dotson were left off the rosters.
“You want to go on that break,” Knox said before the rosters were announced last week. “But it’s another great opportunity. You can’t say no to this.
“Growing up watching the All-Star Game, I dreamed of being a part of it. I watched all the rookie games, the slam dunk, all of that. It would be a great achievement, something that I could check off my board that I’ve always wanted to be in. So after this the next goal is of course to get to the All-Star Game, but this is a great place to start, go out there and play on a nationally televised game with some great rookies and great sophomores.”
“I’m hoping [LeBron] can put his arm around him out there,” Fizdale said last week before the rosters were announced. “You just don’t know what sticks. All of these guys, they have such good advice for these young guys. Hopefully, he can come out of there with a renewed sense of himself, a big confidence boost being around that weekend and come back and finish the season really strong.”
“Yeah, it’s great,” Knox said last week. “Go out there and it would be great to hang out with LeBron, Paul George, Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Stephen Curry, all those great dudes. Just to be around them, hanging out with them, laughing, having fun, learning the game with them, it’s a great opportunity for myself. I can definitely take some stuff from them and put it into my game. That’s a great opportunity for myself.”