The New York Knicks introduced the rookies, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. It’s the beginning of a new era in Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks are officially David Fizdale’s team. The drafting of Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson are proof positive. Both are young, athletic guys with a ton of potential and upside. Fizdale, Scott Perry, and Steve Mills welcomed their new rookies in a press conference on Friday.
It’s becoming clear that Knox is ready for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. He played at Kentucky, which is high-profile in itself. But nothing compares to the scrutiny he’ll face in New York. During the press conference, Knox touched on playing in MSG by saying:
“What excites me the most is playing at Madison Square Garden. It’s the biggest stage in the NBA.”
Rupp Arena isn’t quite the Garden, but it’s comparable.
Knox’s competitive nature is something that helped entice the Knicks to draft him. He performed well in a group workout and the organization was impressed with his desire and ability to compete. That’s exactly what David Fizdale is looking for in his players.
According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, Fizdale said:
“Right from the beginning, this kid wanted to be a Knick. I’m crazy enough because I can relate: I asked to be a Knick. To ask for that you have to be a certain type of competitor.”
You have to love hearing that Knox wanted to come to New York. A lot of guys would shy away from the spotlight. Not everyone was built to play in New York, but hopefully, Knox proves he’s capable.
Not to read too much into this Fizdale quote, but it is interesting that he mentions that he was crazy enough to want to become a Knick. Maybe as Fizdale creates a culture and builds a team, guys will want to play for the Knicks not because they’re crazy, but because they want to win. That is certainly nitpicking the quote, but he’s not wrong. Right now, guys have to be a little crazy to want to play in New York.
But while Knox’s attitude and enthusiasm are exciting, ultimately, his on-court performance is the most important thing. His length and ability to play multiple positions are part of the reason why the Knicks fell in love with him. When asked where he sees himself playing, Knox had this to say:
“I can play pretty much any position on the floor. With the league going where it’s going today, you see a lot of guys — the wings — playing the four and playing the three.”
He would go on to talk about how he’s comfortable playing anywhere, handling the ball, as well as playing off the ball. The playoffs showcased the need for teams to play more of a positionless style. With the heavy use of switching on pick and rolls, versatile defenders are at a premium. Maybe Knox can fill that role for the Knickerbockers.
But maybe the biggest takeaway from today is the indication that the rookies will be given a fair shot to play. They’re going to take their lumps—as all rookies do—but they’re going to play through those stretches.
One of the knocks on Jeff Hornacek was that he kept the young guys unnecessarily hidden. Frank Ntilikina would inexplicably ride the pine for a vast majority of the game due to Hornacek’s aversion to exposing him to a difficult matchup or assignment.
According to ESPN’s Begley, Fizdale plans to let his young guys play through mistakes. More than likely, this is in reference to Knox, but Mitchell Robinson could get his shot this year as well. The athletic big man could see a glimpse at a rotational spot if the Knicks are impressed with him early on.
Kristaps Porzingis is out for the foreseeable future, Joakim Noah is in exile somewhere, Kyle O’Quinn just declined his player option, and Enes Kanter is mulling his own player option worth $18.6 million.
The fact of the matter is that the Knicks roster—especially in the frontcourt—is very fluid. Next year is going to be a learning process for all the young guys on the team. But there is a reason for Knicks fans to feel a sense of optimism right now.