NEW YORK — Kevin Knox’s second season in the NBA, assuming it’s over because of the coronavirus crisis, was a disappointment. A regression was predictable in some ways, given the decision of former team president Steve Mills to overload the roster with win-now veterans who play Knox’s position.
But even when he played this season, Knox was inefficient. His statistics per game dropped in every major category from his rookie campaign — in minutes (28.8 to 17.8), points (12.8 to 6.4), field-goal percentage (37% to 35.9%), 3-point shooting percentage (34.3% to 32.7%), assists (1.1 to 0.9) and rebounds (4.5 to 2.8).
The drops in production and opportunity have called into question Knox’s role in the Knicks’ future. It’s unclear how new team president Leon Rose views the 20-year-old forward, but it’s worth noting he didn’t draft Knox ninth overall and therefore shouldn’t feel the same commitment to his development.
John Calipari, who coached Knox for a season at Kentucky, said the Knicks would regret giving up on a player with his physical tools.
“It’s going to take time,” Calipari told reporters on a conference call. “What you don’t want to do, and teams have done this in that league, is they give up on a young, young player too soon, and now all of a sudden the whole thing in New York would be, ‘Well, what if we had him? We gave him away. We should’ve held on longer, why did we do that?’ Young guys take longer to develop, especially when they’re big. Guys with his size and skill, the game is going to him.”
Knox won’t turn 21 until August and was among the youngest players drafted in 2018. He is 6-7 with an impressive wingspan, but that hasn’t translated well to defense largely because Knox’s motor remains an issue. His defensive rating of 114.4 is last among the Knicks who played at least 1,000 minutes, and interim coach Mike Miller didn’t allow a long leash.
The Knicks drafted Knox directly over Mikal Bridges but the bigger mistake was passing on guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was picked 11th overall and is blossoming into an All-Star-type talent with OKC.
Regardless, Calipari believes Knox just requires more time and patience.
“You’ve got to conquer yourself before you can conquer anybody else,” he said.
Given his longstanding relationship with Rose, Calipari has been mentioned as a possible candidate to coach the Knicks but publicly rebuffed the idea. He praised Rose on Tuesday’s conference call while acknowledging it “may take a year or two” before the plan bears fruit.
“He’s a gatherer and I believe that’s what the Knicks need right now,” said Calipari, a client of Creative Artists Agency, where Rose worked as a longtime agent. “A gatherer who can bring things together and make it a culture that players want to be in because they know this is about all of us.
“And it’s rough place to be. New York is not easy. It’s kind of like Philadelphia, it’s all good if you’re winning. If you’re losing, hard places to be as an athlete. But if you win, if you compete for championships, if you win a championship there’s no better place to do it than in New York. And I think he’s going to bring those people together and you’re going to see.”
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