Kevin Knox has gotten to know the New York Knicks bench quite well through the early stages of the 2019-20 NBA season.
The former one-and-done from Kentucky was drafted No. 9 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Knicks, much to the dismay of anybody who has ever cheered for Knox.
Because getting drafted by the Knicks in the 21st century is synonymous with one word and one word only: failure.
I could rattle off hundreds of stats backing up the malfeasances of the Knicks franchise. The six straight playoffs absences; A franchise-worst record in 2015 which was then matched last season; Zero free agent signings of star players since Allan Houston almost 20 years ago; Just two winning seasons since 2002; 12 coaches since 2001; An owner who would rather play terrible music (yes, that is the real owner of the New York Knicks) than invest his time and money into a multi-billion dollar business. And on, and on, and on…
On Friday, the Knicks went ahead and Knick’d once again, firing head coach David Fizdale just two years into his four-year contract after a 4-18 start. He posted an overall team record of 21-83 and his .202 winning percentage is the fifth-worst for one team in the last 30 seasons, per ESPN. Everyone, probably even Fizdale, saw his termination coming.
And yet, I don’t think many would blame Fizdale for the Knicks piss poor performance the last season and a half. The “system” was designed to fail from the jump and never once attempted to fix its mistakes. I’ve harped on the ridiculous free agent signings of an abundance of veteran power forwards who think they can shoot (sorry, Julius Randle, but you’re one of them). This was the result of yet another misguided attempt to attract the Kyrie Irvings and Kevin Durants of the market – a common theme in Knicks offseasons. They swing for the fences, strike out in a dizzying spin, and hope for a bunt the next time up to the plate.
The lack of direction isn’t going to hurt those short-term contract players. Randle can and will find another job after his time in New York, likely with a decent contract. Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, and Marcus Morris are all established pros. The ones who are suffering are the players they should be relying on the most. Young players such as Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, Frank Ntilikina, and, of course, Kevin Knox.
Knox was relegated to the bench as part of Fizdale’s “tough love” approach that immediately backfired and likely contributed to the coach being fired. Just one week ago, Knox did not play in the Knicks six-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers despite being fully healthy – the first time that has happened in his short career. He has since played in all three games, averaging over 22 minutes per contest, but with just 24 total points. Knox’s minutes have plummeted from his rookie season where he averaged almost 29 per game over 75 appearances. He’s down to just 20.1 minutes per game as a sophomore and his numbers have cratered across the board as a result.
The tough love was all talk, no show, and Fizdale soon lost his job.
Now is an opportunity for Knox to find his role as the Knicks search for a short term and long term replacement. While I have absolutely zero faith in the Knicks making the progressive move, it can’t get much worse for Knox than it is right now. He needs someone in charge who is going to give him minutes. Someone who is going to teach him the game. Someone who will let a raw, 20-year old, skilled hooper work through his mistakes instead of punishing him for them.
Until that happens – or until Knox finds his way out of New York – it could be a long time before he starts to act on his seemingly endless potential. The longer it takes, the worse shape Knox is going to be in going forward. The Knicks need just the smallest semblance of consistency that isn’t tanking the entire franchise even further into the ground.
Knox has the talent to be a very good NBA player. I don’t think many would deny that. He posted 11 games of at least 20 points in his rookie year including a career-high of 31 against the 76ers back in January. He started off the 2019-20 season with six double-digit scoring games through the first eight outings. He has recorded just two games with at least 10 points in 13 games since then. It would seem that the worse the Knicks got, the less they involved Knox. Which is completely backward.
I can only sit here and hope that the Knicks make the right decision and do what’s best for the franchise and its slew of young, incredible talent. They’re going to have a ton of money to spend on free agents in the upcoming offseasons. But doing what’s best for this franchise has never lined up with their knack for doing what benefits them at the moment. And what benefitted them at the moment was firing the coach of easily the worst constructed roster in the league. The Knicks front office might be the only group of people in the NBA world that thought they would be better than they currently are.
Someone, anyone, please free Kevin Knox.