The introductions and ovations were over at Madison Square Garden, and play began in an open practice for the Knicks before a small crowd of season-ticket holders. And the first time his team had the ball in Saturday’s scrimmage, a pass was thrown to Kevin Knox in the corner — just in front of where celebrities will be occupying the seats in the regular season — and the Knicks rookie drained a three-point field goal.
There might not be a lot of wins to come in 2018-19, and there might not be a lot of reasons for ovations. But Knox, who drew the loudest applause from the crowd outside of Kristaps Porzingis, provides the hope and the interest for the Knicks in this admitted rebuilding season.
“You’re trying to get the rhythm going,” Knox said afterward. “I mean, it’s open practice, so you’re just trying to work on stuff that you’ve been working on in practice. I got a lot of shots up this past week, so I just want to come in here and showcase my shooting ability.
“That’s a great feeling,” he added of the ovation during introductions. “I finally got to come out here in front of the fans, get to have a little open practice, see what we’ve been working on. To see the love they have for us is pretty fun.”
Knox gave them what they wanted, draining the three to start and adding an assortment of acrobatic drives to the rim. He wound up shooting 6-for-11 from the floor in the scrimmage.
While Porzingis retreated to the bench after introductions, the hope for the Knicks is that Knox and the other young pieces on the roster will develop into a group that can provide a supporting cast to Porzingis when he completes his rehabilitation from last season’s ACL tear.
What coach David Fizdale stressed to the crowd, the same as he has to the team throughout the first week of training camp, is that he wants to see an effort that exceeds the skill sets. That meant this open practice was conducted at full speed and included plenty of hard fouls.
“Yeah, like we weren’t going to back off of it,” Fizdale said. “The only thing I didn’t want to do was jeopardize each other at the rim too much, but they didn’t listen to that either. You saw, we didn’t give layups to each other. That was the tone of the camp. We wanted to really push each other that way, try to reestablish that Knicks DNA, but at the same time play at a high speed.”
While Knox looked polished in his debut in front of the home fans, fellow rookie Mitchell Robinson displayed some of his potential, dunking and blocking shots, but also just how raw he is. Enes Kanter repeatedly took him to the rim for layups in a physical matchup.
“That’s what it’s about,” Fizdale said. “But they’ll be best friends when they get in the locker room. But if we don’t do that with each other now, when we get in a game, we’re going to get our butts kicked. We’ve got to prepare each other now for what’s to come.
“See, the thing about it with Mitch is, he’s dealing with Enes Kanter every day, who’s a top- five post-up player in our league, an absolute bruiser. That’s just going to make him better, because there’s not many of those running around in the league. There’s only a handful of guys that post up that well. You could see, we’ve got to still get him better with his post-up defense, but overall, the kid can block shots, run and he can catch some lobs.”
Notes & quotes: Fizdale would not comment on an Instagram post that Joakim Noah put up and then deleted shortly afterward on Friday, pleading for the Knicks to let him go if they don’t want him. Noah remains under contract but has kept away from the team.