LAS VEGAS — Kevin Knox’s first basket was a thunderous dunk in transition. He had another a little later off a nice bounce pass from Frank Ntili ki na as the two teenagers teamed for a highlight-reel play.
Knox was effective in his Summer League debut Saturday, particularly going to the basket. He showed the athleticism, activity and smoothness that prompted the Knicks to use the No. 9 pick on him.
His jump shot didn’t fall, as he shot 1-for-7 on three-pointers. But the Kentucky product led the Knicks with 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in their 91-89 victory over the Hawks. Overall, Knox was 8-for-20 from the field and 5-for-8 from the line.
The 18-year-old didn’t look like the second-youngest player from this draft class. He played with confidence and was aggressive right from the beginning.
“It’s what the coaches wanted me to be from the jump,” Knox said. “They wanted me to be able to attack the basket, get to the free-throw line. That’s kind of what I did. I settled myself in. I got to the free-throw line, hit some shots and next thing I know, I was playing really well. I want to keep staying aggressive, keep getting to the basket.”
Knox admitted he was nervous, but when he got that breakaway dunk early in the game, he settled down and kept attacking.
“It was great. First points in the NBA,” Knox said. “It was good. A monster dunk, crowd loved it, so it was good.”
It was an impressive first game for Knox, who has so much room to grow and develop even though David Fizdale called him “super-mature.” Knox has the Knicks thinking big about the future, especially when he is able to play with Kristaps Porzingis, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
“A lot of length,” Fizdale said. “I really can see they will complement each other really well, I think. That’s not a bad pick-and-roll to run. A KK-KP pick-and-roll.”
The Knicks also got some good moments defensively from Ntilikina, who forced Hawks rookie Trae Young into a couple of turnovers. But Ntilikina remains a major work in progress offensively. He shot 2-for-7 and had five points, four assists and three turnovers.
Second-round pick Mitchell Robinson made his presence felt on defense. The 7-1 Robinson blocked four shots, grabbed eight rebounds and scored nine points. He also gave the Knicks a glimpse of what he can do as he continues to gain experience. Robinson hadn’t played competitive basketball for more than a year.
Knox, however, stood out with his all-around play. Fizdale was happy with how he defended, and Knox also showed he’s a much better ballhandler than he was in college. He will get more of an opportunity in Fizdale’s system.
He also remembered the fans chanting for Michael Porter Jr. before and after the Knicks picked him.
“I just want to come out and play as hard as I can,” Knox said. “They booed me and stuff like that. I just wanted to come out and play hard and show them what type of player they was getting. I thought I played really well tonight. I just want to try and keep it up and try to make the fans happy.”