GREENBURGH, N.Y. — All eyes were on Kevin Knox at the start of the season.
A high draft pick from an elite college program, Knox wowed Knicks fans with his performance at summer league. There was talk early in the preseason that he should be a starter right off the bat. Knicks fans, desperate for a sign that their team was going in the right direction, wanted him to shine early, to be an instant star.
Instead, Knox went the more typical route of a rookie, struggling to get used to the rhythms of the pro game while also taking some time to fully come back from an early ankle injury.
Knicks coach David Fizdale said Thursday that he knew all along that it was just a matter of time before Knox turned the corner, which is what has clearly happened in the last six games. Now all eyes are once again on Knox as he heads into Friday night’s game against Atlanta averaging 19.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in his last six games.
“About five games ago, it just shifted for him,” Fizdale said of Knox’s mentality. “You know, things started slowing down for him a little bit, I think. I knew at some point it was going to kick in for him. I just didn’t know when. Now, we’re seeing the kid we thought we had. The kid is talented.”
Talented and fun to watch, which is something Knicks fans really need as the team begins to pile up the losses. This past summer, the Knicks made the 19-year-old the No. 9 overall pick in the draft out of Kentucky. With the way Knox has played lately, there is some hope that he can be a foundational piece of their rebuild.
Knox, who averaged just 8.6 points while shooting 34.3 percent in his first 20 games, said he had to shift the way he thought about the game.
“I just changed my mentality,” he said. “I’m thinking more inside out more. Earlier in the season, I was settling for a lot of jump shots, shooting a lot of threes. I think now, talking to my coaches and my inner circle, they just really want me to be more aggressive getting to the basket.
“I found out some of the spots on the floor that I like to shoot — do my little floater shots, my pull-up shots, being able to get all the way to the rim. By me doing that, it’s kind of opened up my three-point shot.”
Knox still has room for improvement. He knows he needs to stay consistent and come out more aggressively in the second half. Also, as a small forward, he often has to guard some of the best scorers in the league, so he must improve on that side of the ball.
Still, Knox and his coaches believe he has gotten through some of his toughest growing pains.
“A lot of people think when you go to a top college and you come to the NBA, it should be all breeze and easy. It’s not like that,” Knox said. “You come to the NBA and dudes are trying to come after you. You are a rookie and they look at you as fresh meat. They are trying to attack every single night, so you have to have the right mentality . . . When those veterans see you attack and get to the rim, they respect that.”