There’s been little to cheer with the Knicks this month as they’ve lost 10 of the last 11 games. And the near future doesn’t look that bright as they begin a nearly two-week trip that starts Thursday in Milwaukee and then takes them to road games against five Western Conference foes. The team’s 9-26 record could become more unsightly by the time they return.
“We have to make sure we stay together,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said of the upcoming trip. “We also have to find a way to make our lives a lot easier: Knock down shots when we’re open . . . hit the right man when they are open and defend.”
If there is one thing that stands out in the December morass, though, it is the play of rookie Kevin Knox. The first-round pick out of Kentucky has been arguably the team’s best player of late. He had 21 points in the Christmas Day loss to the Bucks, giving him three consecutive 20-point efforts and eight straight of 15 points or more.
“The game is starting to slow down,” Knox said after Tuesday’s loss. “I am starting to figure out where my spots are, where I can get to, to make the right reads. I’m being a lot more patient and getting to the spots where I do best.”
Knox averaged 7.5 points in 16 games over the first six weeks of the season (he missed seven games with an ankle injury) and was struggling with adjusting to playing the NBA game. This month he is averaging 17.9 points in 12 games.
“It was 100 mph the first half of the season. I was just going, zooming everywhere on the court,” Knox said. “I was just going to the basket and throwing up shots . . . I was just going so fast, pre-determining my moves and all that stuff. Basically it was get the ball on the wing and go 100 mph, you catch it and are just going right.
“So in this league they watch film and they’re going to strategize. They know you want to go right. They know what your moves are. So when you get the ball, you need to slow it down, read off the defense.”
One move that’s become a weapon is the floater that he used effectively at Kentucky.
“It’s been really consistent the last few games. So I’ve just been able to do that without going in the paint to the bigs,” Knox said. “The bigs in this game are really good at walling up and not fouling, so being able to go to a floater [and use my] really good touch around the basket [works].”
Knicks coach David Fizdale saw a natural scorer in Knox, but now is looking for him to become more complete.
“I am really looking at his defense and his rebounding. Those are the other areas I am hammering on him,” he said. “The scoring — I’m telling you — this kid is just going to get better and better. He’s a natural at that. What we’re really harping on with him is defending and rebounding.”
One adjustment Knox has not made is to the losing. At no level has he been on a team that lost as much as these Knicks.
“The most losing I think I’ve had before this was at Kentucky — I think we lost four in a row,” Knox said. “We’re struggling now. It’s a time for us to all stay mentally strong and keep going out to compete.”