LOS ANGELES — As the losses pile up, the Knicks will settle for a win of any kind. After eight defeats in a row, they found a slight bright spot in the morass Thursday as Kevin Knox was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.
While the league listed his accomplishments, leading the conference’s rookies in scoring (17.1 points per game) and three-pointers (33) and leading all rookies in minutes per game (34.9), perhaps left unsaid was the most impressive fact — that he did it while the team went 2-12 in December.
“Yeah, that’s such a bright spot for us,” coach David Fizdale said after practice at UCLA. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. But again, these guys are always rooting for each other. This morning when we came in, I announced it to the team and they just pounced on him, they were so happy for him. Again, it’s not just him. It’s them, pushing him every day, making him a better player, spending that time with him. The older players on the court, getting the ball to him in hot spots. So for us right now, that’s a team award.”
“It’s a great feeling,” Knox said. “I worked really hard these past few months and I started off a little slow. But I really made sure I just stayed in the gym, stayed consistent with my work, came to work every day and worked really hard so I can have that opportunity. It’s been up and down, roller coaster throughout the season, but overall, it’s a good achievement. I still got a lot of work to do.”
In becoming the eighth Rookie of the Month in franchise history, Knox pushed himself into the spotlight. Fizdale hoped it would make him worthy of a conversation with LeBron James, the coach’s friend and former player. While the Knicks (9-29) likely won’t see James on the court Friday night at the Staples Center with the Lakers star rehabilitating a strained groin, Fizdale hoped he could get him to speak with Knox.
“You know I’m going to try to find a way to get him to talk to Kevin somehow,” Fizdale said.
“Just don’t get too high or too low with all of the scrutiny that comes with it because he’s been through all of that stuff, all the highs and lows of winning and losing, the criticisms that come with that stuff. Any of the guys that I’ve coached that I can utilize, I’m going to try. I’m just throwing that out there, letting him know I’m coming after him already.”
Asked if he is disappointed that James probably won’t play, Fizdale said, “No, no, no. I’m all right any time I don’t have to see him. I’ve seen him enough. You always want to play against the best, though. I’m wishing him to get back on the court as soon as possible for now.”
Knox said he met James once, when he was in high school and attended a Nike Skills Academy camp in California, doing drills and joining in pickup games. Knox said he was too young and awed to speak to James back then, but that now, even if he is just a few years older at 19, he hopes to get the chance.
“Yeah, he probably is the greatest person to ever play the game of basketball,” Knox said. “So it would be a great opportunity to talk to him. I know Fiz knows him from Miami. They won some championships together. It would be a great opportunity. I’m a young guy, he came into the league young as well. I’ll be able to get a lot of tips from him as far as me growing up and getting better as a person and as a player.”
Notes & quotes: Mitchell Robinson is listed as questionable for Friday. He practiced and worked on his conditioning afterward after missing the last eight games with a sprained ankle.