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Kevin Knox exposed to opponents as Knicks' main option

Rookie's mistakes get magnified by expectations and lack of help from teammates.

Kevin Knox #20 of the Knicks reacts after

Kevin Knox #20 of the Knicks reacts after a basket during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden on March 22, 2019, in New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — At this time last season, Kevin Knox's team was getting ready for NCAA Tournament games with nearly double the number of wins the Knicks have compiled through 73 games. And the expectations for his team were far greater than Knox will feel for any of his games this season.

But the expectations on his shoulders are far greater than they were when he was just one of the procession of McDonald’s All-Americans whom Kentucky coach John Calipari was shuttling into Lexington. With injuries and trades depleting the Knicks' roster on most nights, he is a primary offensive option with few players to attract the attention of opposing defenses. 

Just as it’s hard to determine what kind of defensive player he will be in the future — he currently is being placed in a lineup in which no one seems to know where they should be — it is hard to tell just how much of his shooting struggles stem from being put on the floor as a primary option with little help around him.

“Having veterans, I think, solid veteran play, always helps young guys,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “I was thinking about Scott Perry’s teams in Detroit when Tayshaun [Prince] got there. He wasn’t great at everything, but he could be impactful on games, because he had Chauncey [Billups] and Rip [Hamilton] and Rasheed [Wallace] and Ben Wallace and Lindsay Hunter. So he could come along a little slower with his process, figure things out. His warts didn’t show as much because other guys weren’t messing up.

“Kevin’s warts show, because everybody else is screwing up, too. So we can’t tuck him away and hide those things right now. But I think going through this is as good as going through it with veterans, because this fast-tracks you. This forces you to have to go through all of it and really face what you’re weak at in an immediate way. So I think all of this stuff has been good for him, and I think he’s going to be different than those numbers.”

Knox has shot just 36.9 percent from the floor this season and 34.7 percent from three-point range. But he has shot 16-for-32 from beyond the arc in his last six games.

“I’m just trying to get the feel for the game,” Knox said. “There’s a lot of ups and downs this season, but he just really wants me to stay confident, don’t get down on myself, stay in the gym, put up extra shots and stuff like that. A lot of people have been hurt lately, so he’s kind of asked me to step up, be a leader on and off the court. DJ [DeAndre Jordan]’s been helping me a lot, Lance [Thomas] the same way. So just getting my confidence going, knocking down some shots, getting to the rim, getting to the free-throw line. He’s helping me play with more aggression.''

Sunday afternoon’s meeting with the Clippers will give him another chance to rehash the better days at Kentucky with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has become the starting point guard for the Clippers.

“I think he’s had a great year,” Knox said. “He’s kind of won that starting job. He’s taken that team and plays them at their own pace. It’s one of the main reasons that they’re so good. He’s a great point guard, plays at his own pace, gets everyone involved. He’s not a guy that’s going to go out there and score 30, but he’s a guy that’s going to go out there and shoot over 40 percent from the field and knock down wide-open threes, get his teammates involved, and he’s going to defend on the other end. He’s a great point guard. He’s going to be a starting point guard in this league for a long time.”

Notes & quotes: Fizdale said Frank Ntilikina had a good practice after returning to action Friday for the first time in nearly two months . . . Dennis Smith Jr., Allonzo Trier and Noah Vonleh remain out and will be re-evaluated next week.

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