So you think it was tough for Kevin Knox to hear boos from fans at Barclays Center on Thursday night after he was drafted by the Knicks?
That reaction was nothing compared to what he went through a little more than a year ago when Knox, then 17, announced that he had picked Kentucky from a list of suitors that also included Duke and North Carolina. The vitriol from fans of jilted schools was swift and brutal, according to an article in the Raleigh News and Observer, which sifted through more than 1,200 tweets under Knox’s original post that he was headed to Kentucky.
“I hope you have a great six months of classes while you recover from a torn ACL,” tweeted one North Carolina fan.
Others accused him of taking cars and bags full of cash. Michelle Knox, Kevin’s mother, who monitored the reaction her son received on social media and message boards, told the paper she saw that one Tar Heels fan wished her son would die.
Hearing something like that at age 17? What a world. Perhaps the only upside from this is that anyone who has had to deal with that isn’t going to get rattled by some booing and eye-rolling from Jordan the crying Knicks fan.
Knox, now 18, may be the second-youngest player in the draft, but one year at Kentucky appears to have done plenty to prepare him for whatever jeers he may hear during his rookie season at Madison Square Garden.
This is a good thing, because it doesn’t sound as if the Knicks are looking to bring Knox along slowly. At a news conference Friday at the team’s training center, new coach David Fizdale said he would have no problem starting Knox or second-year guard Frank Ntilikina if he thought they were ready.
“I have no problem playing him, starting him, whatever winds up coming out of it,” Fizdale said of Knox. “I wouldn’t have had a problem doing that with Frank. These guys got to swim now. Some of that means there’s going to be some bumps, but you learn faster by going through it. I feel very confident throwing these young guys out there and letting them go through the highs and lows of the league.”
The Knicks believe that Knox, after playing at basketball-crazed Kentucky, is mature beyond his years and that it will go a long way toward helping him deal with the pressure that comes with playing in New York. In fact, Fizdale said one of the things that really attracted him to Knox — the ninth overall pick in the draft — is his desire to be on the big stage.
“He wanted to be at Kentucky,” Fizdale said. “That’s a tough place to go into and say I’m going to flourish at this place. You have to have a certain type of attitude, a certain confidence, a certain competitive edge to want that. And right from the beginning, this kid wanted to be a Knick.
“I’m crazy enough because I can relate. I asked to be a Knick.
“To ask for that, you have to be a certain type of competitor. But you also have to understand there is a history involved and there is something great on the other side if you do it the right way. So the fact that he wanted that and embraced that tells me a lot about who he is.”
Knox took the booing in stride Thursday night, telling fans in his post-draft news conference that they may be chanting for Michael Porter Jr. but they got him and he’s going to work hard. Knox then got some support from a new teammate later that night when Kristaps Porzingis, who also was jeered when he was drafted three years ago, called him to welcome him to the team.
“He asked me how the fans reacted and I told him I got the same amount of boos as you got,” Knox said. “So it was fun. He just laughed and he said, ‘It’s all motivation and fuel to the fire.’ He said, ‘Just work. Sooner or later they’ll be cheering for you.’ ”
And until they do, Knox will handle it.