Knicks keep their faith in Knox: ‘I want to prove a lot of people wrong’

New York Knicks, Kevin Knox
Apr 7, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox (20) drives to the basket in the third quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Despite an underwhelming sophomore season for Kevin Knox, the New York Knicks have remained committed to the former lottery pick.

Knox, who shot a dreadful 36 percent overall last season, has been criticized for his low motor. The former Kentucky star is eager to turn the corner and finally break out in the NBA.

He’s brimming with confidence, which emanates from the full backing he’s been getting from the Knicks.

“The whole coaching staff, the whole organization really has a lot of faith in me. They’ve really been pushing me all summer. Coach has really been reaching out,” Knox said on his zoom call Tuesday.

This echoed former Knick Steve Novak’s sentiment earlier in the day on MSG A.M.

“I think the guy with the Knicks that you really need to watch this year, going into his third year, is Kevin Knox,” Novak said. “I know there are a lot of new names, a lot of new faces, and a lot of potentials, with a lot of the roster – Obi Toppin being picked, great selection. But to me, Kevin Knox is in his third year. Coach Thibs has been in Kevin Knox’s ear all summer long since he signed with the New York Knicks.

“And it sounds like they’ve made him a priority. So he is a guy who has the potential to make that leap and improve and help this New York Knicks team. I think if he can have a solid year, he can really help the Knicks.”

Training camp star

Thibodeau has been effusive in his praise for the third-year forward when he mentioned that Knox had been impressive in the first two days of the training camp.

“I hope he can sustain that over a long period of time. Looking at the shots that he had taken last year, the ones that he took which I would quantify as good shots, he made those,” Thibodeau said.

“When Kevin Knox takes good shots, he’s going to make them. He’s put a lot of time into his shooting. I think he’s gotten stronger. But he’s got to continue to work. And if he does that, Kevin Knox will be fine.”

Aside from focusing on his conditioning, Knox has trained with sought-after shooting coach Chris Matthews. Known as Lethal Shooter on social media, Matthews has helped improve the shooting mechanics of the likes of NBA big men Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, and WNBA stars Candace Parker and Skylar-Diggins Smith, among others.

Shot of confidence

Knox got a shot of confidence when the Knicks brought in Kenny Payne as an assistant coach. Payne has always been in his corner since his one-and-done season with the Wildcats.

Aside from Payne, the Knicks have added a slew of coaches who have a strong background in player development.

“As much as possible, I’m really getting a lot of work with different coaches that we have on our staff,” Knox said.

“It definitely feels great to have the organization behind my back. I just really want to go out there this year and prove a lot of people wrong. Just go out there and play hard and just really win games.”

The Knicks’ reluctance to include Knox in a package that would’ve gotten them All-Star point guard Chris Paul was the first sign that they are fully invested in the 2018 ninth overall pick.

Knox likes the makeup of this Knicks team better than last year, when Steve Mills signed a glut of veteran forwards that buried Knox on the bench.

“Last year, we brought in a lot of new guys. So it was kind of stuff adjusting to the new players. But I think this year, we really did a good job of bringing some veteran guys who will really help the young guys,” Knox said.

Run and gun Knicks

Knox already saw a glimpse of what the future holds for him and the Knicks at practice, with Thibodeau imploring them to run and take advantage of their athleticism.

“I think the way that coach really wants us to play this year is really fast. We’re so young, and we got a lot of athleticism, so he really wants us to fly up and down the court, which is really different than last year,” Knox said.

Thibodeau has yet to settle with his rotation opting to dedicate the first part of the training camp to fundamentals before moving to team schemes. But Knox said they already have a sense of how Thibodeau will roll them out this season.

“Everyone on the team knows their role. We had a couple of days of good practice. Just the flow of practice, everyone really knows how they gonna play this year,” he said.

Knox said Thibodeau has already told him what he needs to do to make great strides this season.

“He just really wants me to be aggressive, rebound the ball defensively, push the ball on the break, make plays knock the open shots, be aggressive, and get to the basket,” Knox said. 

Thibodeau’s message to him was obvious.

Play with a high motor.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo