When the New York Knicks drafted Kevin Knox out of Kentucky with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft on June 21, there were mixed reactions around the league. With the new direction the team was taking, hiring David Fizdale as the team’s new head coach, fans were skeptical and felt Michael Porter Jr from Missouri would have been the safer, more reliable pick.
While it has yet to be seen how Porter, the 14th overall pick to the Denver Nuggets pans out, as he is still recovering from spinal surgery in July with no timetable of a return, Knox showed Knicks fans why he was the safer pick to win now, starting in the summer league. Throughout the summer league from July 6-17, Knox proved his worth, finishing fourth overall in points per game with 21.3.
Throughout training camp and the preseason, Knox received praise from the coaching staff, including Fizdale, where it was thought that he would start at small forward in Wednesday night’s season opener against the Atlanta Hawks. However, Fizdale announced on Tuesday before the game that Knox would come off the bench, with second-year guard Frank Ntilikina set to take his place after proving to be “steadier” in the preseason. Although Knox averaged more points (8.8) and more minutes (25) per game than Ntilikina, Ntilikina was second in assists on the team (2.2) and had fewer turnovers, which Fizdale decided he favored more.
As Knox came off the bench, a roar from the Madison Square Garden crowd erupted, as it was anticipated to see how he would react to being a bench player for the first time in his basketball career. Opening the game, Knox looked unsure of himself, missing his first four shots and his first two free throws, before calming down to finish with 10 points in 24 minutes of play, shooting 4 of 16 from the field.
Although Knox did show some aggressiveness, such as attacking the basket, having two steals, and one block, there were some signs of carelessness, as he had no rebounds or assists and turned the ball over twice, giving him the lowest player efficiency rating of -2.4.
In his post-game news conference Knox admitted to feeling nervous before the game, as he said between the warm ups and going to the locker room, his stomach was going crazy. Despite the nervousness, Fizdale expressed how much he loved his aggressiveness and the way he spaced the floor.
For a 19 year old kid in his first NBA regular season game, pregame jitters are understandable, so it shouldn’t be anything to be concerned about heading into the team’s next game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, Oct 19.