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Entering his third NBA season, it’s easy to forget that Kevin Knox is younger than the Knicks’ 2020 first-round pick, Obi Toppin.
The 21-year-old forward still is striving to achieve the consistency that has eluded him over his first two years in New York, but Knox provided lights-out outside shooting for a second consecutive preseason game with 20 points off the bench in Friday’s 119-83 win over the Cavaliers at the Garden.
Including the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ previous victory over Cleveland two nights earlier, Knox has buried nine of his last 10 3-point attempts.
“Looking at his career, when he’s taken good shots, he’s always made them. Or at least had a good chance to make them,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And when he’s eliminated the tough shots, it makes him a much better player. He plays with a lot more energy defensively.
“But I want him to get himself going — with his defense first, running the floor, rebounding and then spacing the floor. And then I thought our guys did a great job of penetrating and finding him. I thought the rim reads were great. Kevin has worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the season.”
Knox, the Knicks’ 2018 lottery pick (ninth overall), enjoyed a promising rookie season, with averages of 12.8 points and 28.8 minutes per game over 75 appearances. But the former Kentucky star’s playing time (17.9 minutes per game) and scoring (6.4 points per game) dropped significantly in his sophomore season.
Knox started strongly last year, with double figures in points in seven of his first 11 games, but he netted 10 or more points in just eight of his final 54 appearances.
After having little impact on the Knicks’ first two preseason games against the Pistons, Knox was 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s comeback win over the Cavaliers. He then hit seven of 10 shots (including 6-for-7 from long range) in Friday night’s blowout against the Cavaliers in the team’s final tune-up before Wednesday’s regular-season opener at Indiana.
“Just playing with energy, moving without the basketball, and I’m doing a really good job of just finding the open spots on the floor,” Knox said. “My teammates always come to me asking me how I’m always open.
“I just continue to move without the basketball, cut, space the corners, find open gaps, and like I said, really doing a good job of my teammates finding me open … and being ready to shoot before the ball even gets there, being prepared. I’ve been working on all of that all summer.”
With a new coaching staff — and especially coming off a rocky 2019-20 campaign — Knox acknowledged it was important for him to have a strong preseason showing, especially on a roster clearly in need of a consistent outside threat.
“It’s good, it’s always good to see the ball go through the net,” Knox said. “But with preseason over now, starting Wednesday we get the real games going, so I want to continue to get the work in, watch a lot of film, get a lot of shots up.
“It was great to see the ball go through the net these last two games, and hopefully I can continue with that confidence and play with it consistently like I’ve been playing.”
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