The Knicks have a Kevin Knox crisis
Five observations from the Knicks’ desultory 111-104 loss to the Spurs Saturday in a game they trailed by 28 points.
1. The Kevin Knox crisis continued and the 20-year-old forward resorted to hitting the treadmill for 20 minutes after the Spurs game to keep in shape. Knox was benched for the second half for the second straight game and finished the night playing 8:49, shooting 1 of 4 from the field. He took to the treadmill for sprints after the game on the advice of GM Scott Perry in an attempt to be in top shape in wake of coach David Fizdale reducing his minutes.
Fizdale is traversing a slippery slope with the Knox benchings, though it should be noted veterans were taken aback last season at the coach not holding the team’s 2018 lottery pick accountable enough.
“I talked to Scott about getting an extra run in after practice, stuff like that,” Knox said. “Get on the treadmill to stay in shape and condition.”
Fizdale has now punished Knox for three straight games after yanking him in the second quarter vs. Cleveland for Wayne Ellington. The leash Knox had last season as a rookie is a lot shorter. Knox has played just 19 minutes the past two games. In Philly, Knox was benched for defensive lapses. Against San Antonio, Knox was missing open shots.
“It’s 100 percent new,” Knox said. “Most guys in the NBA their whole life is playing 30 minutes. I was up there (last season). It’s a new year. I have to have the right mindset, my time will come. I just have to be ready for it.”
Asked if he needs a longer chance to get comfortable, Knox said, “Not really. He made the decision. I respect it. I’m going to keep working hard and my time will come. Have to stay ready, stay in shape. I have to be the best teammate on the bench, keep cheering my teammates on, high-five them and give them advice. I’m going to keep working and my opportunity will come.”
2. The trials and tribulations for fellow second-year sniper Allonzo Trier is even more severe. Trier, a rookie revelation last season after being undrafted, is an odd man out — a DNP for five straight games with Fizdale saying he wanted to keep a “consistent” rotation. Trier’s numbers aren’t bad but his below-average defense and isolation tendencies perhaps had grown tiring.
“He’s been a pro,” Fizdale said. “You watch him on the bench, I think that tells you everything you need to know. He’s the first one rooting for his teammates. Now is he happy or ecstatic that he’s not playing? No. And I don’t want him to be. I want him to be hungry. I want him to keep fighting. And by no means is he out of sight, out of mind. Just right now I’m starting to find consistency with the groups that are playing. I’m going to lean toward that right now before anything else.”
Trier was shooting 47 percent from the field – 41 percent from 3. After Saturday’s team flop, Trier could be back in against the Nets Sunday.
3. Though he was quiet in the first half, Frank Ntilikina wound up with extraordinary numbers that only 19 prior players have accomplished. The 21-year-old scored nine points with nine assists, six steals and no turnovers. The nine assists, six steals and no turnovers has only been done 19 times before, and Ntilikina is the youngest player ever to post those numbers in a game. Ntilikina, who stole an inbounds pass in the backcourt for a layup, has also been shooting 40 percent from 3-point land since becoming a starter. “He had a heckuva game,” Fizdale said. “He is competing his butt off.”
4. The Knicks are 2-4 since the Steve Mills Press Conference Game Nov. 10. Bobby Portis figures a Sunday win over the cross-river rival Nets is very important, considering their utter lack of urgency in starting the game vs. San Antonio at the Garden. The Knicks fell behind 7-0 in the first two minutes, forcing Fizdale into a timeout. MSG Network’s Alan Hahn has pointed out four of their worst home games this season have come on weekends, falling behind by 20 points in those. Interesting.
“It’s really big, we need a win really bad,” Portis said. “Obviously two heartbreakers in our prior four games (Charlotte, Philly). It’s really, really critical for us to be prepared.”
5. A good assist-to-turnover ratio usually is indicative of a strong performance. Not true vs. the Spurs. The Knicks notched 30 assists to just 11 turnovers.
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