Kevin Knox knows “the numbers aren’t there,” so he’s trying to look past them from what largely has been a statistically unproductive second season in the NBA.
The final 27 games following the All-Star break begin Friday night for the Knicks against the Pacers at the Garden. Knox, the team’s 2018 lottery pick, is hoping to finally start earning increased playing time due to the improvements to his all-around game he has worked on in recent weeks, as cited by interim coach Mike Miller.
Knox is averaging just 6.8 points and 18.3 minutes per game this season, down from 12.8 points and 28.8 minutes per appearance as a rookie after the Knicks selected him ninth overall out of Kentucky.
“That’s something I hope for, I don’t know how with the coaches and how the minutes are going to go, but that’s something I would like,” Knox said after practice Thursday in Tarrytown. “Just going out there, if I play 10 minutes, if I play 25, 30, just going out there and leaving it all on the floor, defensively and offensively. I’m really just trying to play hard on both sides of the court.
“It’s really just showing my full package. I think the second half of the season, I want to really show I’m just not a shooter and can make plays for others.”
Miller acknowledged that the second-year forward has done “some things we think are really good signs” in recent weeks, including “two of his better, more impactful games that he’s played this season” at both ends of the court.
“It’s not necessarily scoring and making shots, and that’s what we’ve talked to him about. Being a guy that makes people on the floor better with the things you’re doing. There’s so many ways he can impact it,” Miller said. “When you have a team, you’re looking for guys that make other people better and do things. … We’ve seen him do that, and I think that’s a big step for him and his maturity.”
The 20-year-old Knox is shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor — and 32.6 percent from 3-point range — for the season. But Miller has seen improvements in other areas, such as the 6-foot-7 Knox’s defensive positioning and using his length to disrupt passing lanes and contest shots.
“I’m seeing just more plays where he’s impacting the game, whereas young guys see the offense as a way they impact it, but he’s doing it a lot of different ways,” Miller said. “We’re challenging him to rebound more, to be more active defensively, to get more deflections, to just consistently being in the right spot. … And taking advantage out of the offensive system to help him get quality shots and then what he can do on his own.
“There’s a lot of things in there, and we’re seeing things growing there. It’s just now let’s get those game to game, where it’s ‘OK, those are two really good ones, but let’s make it three, four, five [games].’ ”
Knox is running short on time this season to show that he still should be considered a key piece to the Knicks’ future, along with second-year big man Mitchell Robinson and rookie guard RJ Barrett.
“I had a great All-Star break down in Florida, got some real good work in, spent some time with family,” Knox said. “Just really get my mind off basketball [after] the last first half of the season, and really just getting ready for this second half. I’m really excited, I think we’re going to have a really good second half of the season, team-wise and personal-wise. So I was just very excited to get back to New York, get back to playing some ball.”