Reddish thinks he can be a star; Knox feels mixed emotions leaving Knicks

The New York Knicks essentially kicked the can further down the road after swapping Cam Reddish for Kevin Knox and a future first-round pick (via Charlotte).

The Knicks front office did a solid job flipping Knox’s expiring salary for a potential All-Star with two years left in his rookie deal.

This early, the difference between the two young NBA talents is noticeable.

In his first media interview after the trade, Reddish was oozing with confidence that Knox lacked during his disappointing three-and-a-half seasons with the Knicks. Reddish was bold and declared he’s ready for the next step after a roller coaster two-and-a-half seasons with the Atlanta Hawks.

“I think I could be a star,” Reddish said after the Knicks beat his former team, 117-108, Saturday night in Atlanta. “I thought I could be a legit star. That’s what I’m working to be. So, it’s pretty simple.”

In Reddish’s view, the plan is pretty simple. But in reality, with the glut of wings in the Knicks roster, the path to realizing his goal is complex and a challenging one.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau was non-committal when pressed about Reddish’s role as the Knicks are on a roll. Winners of three straight and eight of their last 11 games, Thibodeau hinted that he’s not willing to rock the boat that kept them afloat. At 22-21, the Knicks moved to a tie for ninth in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Wizards.

Reddish is confident that he’s still on track to his goal, but he’s also aware of the situation in New York.

“I’m not expecting to come in and play 35, 40 minutes,” Reddish said. “I’m just gonna come in and work my tail off and then the rest takes care of itself.”

Reddish was held out in Saturday’s game due to a sprained ankle, but he said he’s feeling better now, hinting that he’s close to returning to action.

“I’m excited. I’m ready to get started,” said Reddish, who is getting reunited with his college teammate RJ Barrett.

The two spoke on the phone for five minutes after the trade was finalized. Reddish said it was more of catching up with each other and Barrett letting him know to come in ready and play hard — two of Thibodeau’s tenets.

Growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Reddish said he went to a couple of Knicks games and have played against them. But Saturday night’s win against his former team was the first time he observed this new iteration of the Knicks team play from a different vantage point.

“I haven’t watched that much,” Reddish said. “I only got to watch one game. They play well together, which is what I love to do, play together, play like a team.”

On the other hand, Knox is looking forward to a fresh start though he didn’t get it right away. Knox was a healthy scratch Saturday night and watched his former teammates dismantle his new team while he watched on the bench as he did for the most part of his tenure in New York.

“It was mixed emotions at first,” Knox said in an interview with Bally Sports-Atlanta. “But I’m happy for a new start, a fresh opportunity. It’ll probably hit me next week but other than that, I’m just really happy to be here.”

After a promising rookie year, Knox fell off the rotation and never earned a meaningful role when the defensive-minded Thibodeau took over from David Fizdale. While Knox improved to become a three-point threat, he hasn’t put together his length and athleticism on the defensive end.

Knox is excited to spread his wings in an uptempo style that suits his offensive skill set in Atlanta. He said he spoke with Atlanta coach Nate McMillan and they wanted him to have a workout, practice, familiarize himself with what they do and go from there.

“The offense is great. They play at a fast pace and that’s kind of something that I’ve loved doing pretty much my whole life. And just really getting to play with a lot of talent on the team. So, I’m just really looking forward to getting pushed,” Knox said.

It helps that he’s familiar with the Hawks star point guard Trae Young. Knox said his family is close to Young’s family after playing against each other in the AAU circuits since freshman year. Whether that familiarity can translate on the court remains to be seen, especially after Hawks GM Travis Schlenk never mentioned Knox during a 20-minute presser while lengthily speaking about how they value the Charlotte pick they acquired from the Knicks and Reddish’s All-Star potential.

Knox is on a make-or-break contract year. If there’s anything positive about moving to Atlanta, maybe it’s because he’s closer now to Tampa Bay.

“Six hours from home. It’s not that bad. It’s way closer than New York,” Knox said. “That’s a great thing.”

While Reddish and Knox got closer to their homes, they were still far from their goals. But after their first media sessions after the swap, the main takeaway is that Reddish, while one season younger, is way ahead in their NBA journey.

The Knicks moved from the ‘just-happy-to-be-here’ Knox to ‘I-think-I-could-be-a-star’ Reddish.

Everyone, even Hawks fans, admit the Knicks got the better player. It’s up to them to polish Reddish.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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