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Knicks again going down the wrong path by not giving minutes to young players

New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox II controls

New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox II controls the ball against the Miami Heat during the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Let me know if this sounds familiar.

The Knicks have lost five games in a row. The kids are watching it happen.

Interim coach Mike Miller — following in the footsteps of David Fizdale and even Jeff Hornacek before him — is the latest to stock the lineup with journeymen, with the results remaining very much the same.

The Knicks are 10-29, the third-worst record in the NBA, and they are doing it with a nondescript lineup of mostly veterans who point to no future again.

When the Knicks signed seven journeymen as free agents this past summer, it was understandable that they would try to prop up the record after last season’s 17-65 mark could not lure any of the stars on the free-agent market to even sit down with them.

And they didn’t hide the intention of maintaining flexibility, signing six of them to one-year guaranteed contracts, making them all movable deals. They even dropped hints that the lone two-year guarantee, Julius Randle, was a contract that could be traded because it wasn’t a max salary deal.

But the additions haven’t made a big difference in wins or even competitiveness, as the Knicks have more often than not found themselves out of games early.

Yet when Marcus Morris, who has been their best player this season, went to the sideline this past week, Miller inserted Reggie Bullock into the starting lineup rather than Kevin Knox, whose growth has stalled after a productive rookie campaign.

In the last game Morris played, a loss to the Clippers a week ago, Knox played only six minutes. Then Bullock got the start in the last three, and the only time Knox reached 20 minutes was a one-sided loss at Utah.

Knox has looked lost, shooting miserably and playing much more tentatively than last season, when he was handed the ball the way rookie RJ Barrett has gotten it this season.

“Yeah, obviously it’s true,” Knox said. “You’ve got the ball in your hands, and then this year you don’t. I think like I said, you just keep the same approach.”

The Knicks’ front office has remained silent and Miller is hesitant to praise or criticize anyone, so maybe the Knicks remain hopeful that the veterans will produce wins or are betting that they can create trade value for the short-term rentals. But in the meantime, similar to Frank Ntilikina in his first two seasons, it’s hard to argue that Knox is getting better as he sits.

“I don’t necessarily worry about the minutes,” he said.

“My Pops always just tells to go out there and just play every single possession as hard as I can, because you never know how long you’re going to be on the floor. So just go out there and give it your all. So that’s the approach.

“The six minutes I had, I thought I played really well; went out there and played hard. Unfortunately, I didn’t get back in the game. But like I said, you never know when your number is going to get called. So you always got to stay prepared, stay ready.”

They may be trying to stay ready, but between the 19-year-old Barrett, the 20-year-old Knox and 21-year-olds Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson, only Barrett is starting at the moment.

Maybe they are the future and maybe they aren’t, but for the Knicks, the future is now when you’re 10-29 and it looks as if a bunch of journeymen are taking minutes from the kids. 

Mr. Knick?

When the Oklahoma City Thunder provided a touching welcome home to Russell Westbrook in his return there Thursday, a generous and altruistic gesture, the warmth was quickly overshadowed by a Twitter feud between his former teammates, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins.

It started with an attention-grabbing tweet from Perkins: “In about 30 minutes I’m going to give my opinion on @SportsCenter on why I Believe that Russell Westbrook is the best player to have ever put on an Oklahoma City Thunder Jersey!!! He is MR. THUNDER!!!”

It escalated as Perkins explained himself, pointing out Durant’s playoff failure without Westbrook. And it might have been the “best player to have ever put on an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey” part that brought Durant to his keyboard, joking about Perkins’ contributions to those Thunder teams.

Eventually, Perkins explained, accurately, that Durant was the best player ever to play for the Thunder but that Westbrook had shown a loyalty to the Thunder that merited the title.

Safe to say that in deciding who would hold the title as the greatest of the Knicks, most of the contenders are old enough to avoid social media spats.

So who would it be?

If you go by awards, Willis Reed is the lone MVP in team history — winning it once and also earning NBA Finals MVP honors in both of the Knicks’ championship seasons. Patrick Ewing had the longest career with the Knicks and was a seven-time All-NBA team member.

But if you go by Perkins’ criteria, maybe Mr. Knick would be Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who spent 10 seasons as a player with the Knicks before being traded to Cleveland. He was part of both titles and arguably the real hero of the first championship when he produced a 36-point, 19-assist show in the clincher — which was overshadowed in history by Reed limping out of the tunnel and hitting the first two shots of the game to stir the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.

And since his playing days ended, Frazier has served as a color commentator for the Knicks, rhyming his way into the hearts of fans.  

  

  

  

  

  

  

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