As the losses continue to mount for the sinking Knicks, coach David Fizdale has talked recently about changing the way he dissects each defeat and figuring out a way to highlight something to build on out of each one.
With one win in the past nine games, including ugly blowout losses this week against lowly Phoenix at home and Philadelphia on the road, Fizdale at least can feel better about seeing some substantial progress from lottery pick Kevin Knox, who has averaged nearly 20 points per game over his past six appearances entering Friday’s home tilt against Atlanta.
“About five games ago, it just shifted. Things started slowing down for him a little better, I think,” Fizdale said after practice Thursday. “I knew at some point it was gonna kick back in for him. I just didn’t know when.
“Now we’re seeing that kid that we thought we had. The kid’s talented. He’ll hit some more pitfalls, that’s just part of the build, but the one thing that’s encouraging is he’s starting to see things a lot more [clearly] and do some things that can be determined as big-time.”
Indeed, the 19-year-old Knox has averaged 19.7 points and 6.7 rebounds over the past six games, more than doubling those numbers (8.6 and 3.3, respectively) from his first 20 NBA appearances.
More importantly, the 6-foot-9 forward has dramatically improved his shooting percentages — both from 3-point range (from 32.4 percent to 42.9) and overall (up more than eight percentage points to 42.7). Knox attributes those increases to a more intensive commitment to getting to the rim over that stretch, thereby opening up his outside game.
“I’ve just been changing my mentality. I’ve been thinking more inside-out now,” said Knox, the ninth-overall pick in the draft. “Early on in the season, I was kind of settling for a lot of jump shots, shooting a lot of 3s.
“I think now, talking to my coaches and talking to my inner circle, they just really want me to be more aggressive getting to the basket. … I think by me playing inside-out, it’s really been opening up that 3-point shot for me.”
The former Kentucky standout has connected on at least three 3-point buckets in five of the past six games. And he finally appears fully recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him for seven games early in his rookie campaign.
“I was struggling before the injury, too, but that injury kind of set me back a little bit more,” Knox said. “I knew I was going to struggle. Every rookie, every player, is going to go through their struggles throughout the season. But it’s the mentality you have that you keep working, stay up on yourself, don’t get too low. I just think I’ve been more aggressive, mentally strong, coming into practice ready to work every single day. I knew it was going to click. I put a lot of hard work in, so I knew it was going to come sooner or later.
“Now, I’m knocking down some tough shots and I think I’m starting to knock down a lot more 3s than I was early on in the season. I’ve been putting up a lot of extra shots after practice, before practice. And I think I’m shooting a really good number from 3 right now. I have to be able to keep that up, be able to be more consistent, get my percentages up, be more efficient. Once I start doing all that, my game’s gonna go to another level.”
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