By LARRY VAUGHT
Kevin Knox was only 20 year old when his second season in the NBA was suspended by the coronavirus. He was not having as good a second year as he did as a rookie and many criticized his defense and sometimes failure to keep moving on offense, two faults he had at times during his one year at Kentucky before he became a first-round draft pick.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said when Knox was drafted that the Knicks needed to give him time to develop.
“Some guys are even younger than their chronological age, which is young. Guess what, he’s one of those. He was the youngest player in that draft, but he was also young and he was learning about himself,” Calipari said recently.
“And I come back to, you have to conquer yourself before you can conquer anybody else. And being in that league, I never heard him complain one time. How about that? That he’s accepting, ‘I’m responsible for me. I am what my stats say I am. And I’m responsible. I’ve got a ways to go.’”
Calipari said the combination of Knox’s work ethic and strong family roots should be consider when the Knicks evaluate the second-year player’s future.
“It’s going to take time. What you don’t want to do, and teams have done this in that league, is give up on a young (player) too soon. And now, all of the sudden, the guy comes back and they look and the thing in New York would be, ‘Well what if we had him? We gave him away. We should have held on longer. Why did we do that?’” Calipari said.
“Young guys take longer to develop, especially when they’re big. And guys with his size and his skill, the game is going to him. In other words, if you’re long, if you’re lanky, if you’re a basketball player, if you can shoot it.”
Calipari knows shooting is a “premium” in the NBA and that if a player can’t shoot, he can’t be a top player (one reason I still wonder about how successful Ashton Hagans will be in the NBA).
“I would expect most guys I’ve seen in the NBA, they improve their shooting. But I’ll say this about Kevin: What you saw in glimpses in his first year and even glimpses last year and glimpses in the summer, it’s in there. Now, that maturity of consistency and most of that is not just your physical consistency, it’s your mental consistency. I mean, you can’t force that,” Calipari said.
“A lot of times it comes on its own terms. But when you’ve got what he has, the talent and what I see in him and what I know of him, I’ve not lost any faith in him because I knew he was going to struggle.”
Knox averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 28.8 minutes per game his rookie year when he shot 37 percent from the field. This year he’s averaging 6.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 17.9 minutes per game and shooting 36 percent from the field.
“The only way you can really achieve the kind of success you’re going to achieve is you’re going to have some failure. And if you really want to achieve at a high level, you’re going to probably have to fail greatly. And you think about all of the players who have gone through that league that have had to learn about themselves – and I can go with all of the great ones – that learned this early and it changed who they were as a player,” Calipari said.
“Those guys, though, came in as seniors. They were 21, 22, 23 years old. He (Knox) walks in as an 18-year-old. You’ve got to remember that. Those guys in that stage were not coming out as freshmen. They were coming out as juniors or seniors in college. I think he’s going to be fine.”
Calipari says having former Wildcat Julius Randle with him in New York should help show Knox how he has to fight to succeed in the NBA.
“I’m happy that Julius is standing beside him. I think they have some good pieces and Kevin’s got to work his way to be that guy on that team,” Calipari said.