“Kevin Knox Drafted” by Brad Penner licensed by USA TODAY Sports
All around him, Kevin Knox heard the boos deprecating his promise as a New York Knick. The jeers were exacerbated by the fairly new Barclays Center, echoing intensely.
The camera zoomed in on an agitated dad whose thumbs flipped downward. He stood next to his son, who rubbed his head, personifying bewilderment. Both Knick fans proudly wore #6 Porzingis jerseys.
Kevin Knox was surprisingly receptive to the jeers, “They booed Porzingis and look where he’s at now,” he remarked to reporters. Certainly, the scene was ironic, considering Porzingis was similarly booed after being drafted 4th overall just 2 short years ago.
Porzingis is the quintessential example of a success story. The flashes in the pan, sinking ships, and implosions are merely spasmodic in New York lore. Jeremy Lin lit up Madison Square Garden with the documented stint of Linsanity. Following a near MVP season, Amare Stoudemire grappled with the revitalization of his athletic vigor, coming up valiantly short. Eddy Curry’s weight vacillated, but not before he had a season filled with oscillations of low-post potential, defensive despair, and underlying hope.
After all, the light shines brightest in the Mecca. The glare of the public eye is juxtaposed onto the biggest stage of professional basketball. Like Broadway, the stars adorn the limelight and capture the attention of the audience, flourishing when everyone is watching. At the same time, the light leaves others languished, and star-struck.
Fans continued to express their displeasure with the organization. The umbrella feeling of distrust was evidently obvious of the James Dolan-run team.
Of course, the ill-advised fans were disputing the Knicks decision to pass on Michael Porter Jr., formerly the top-ranked recruit in his high school class. The MVP of the 2017 McDonald’s All-American game sat out all but three games and perturbed teams because of a debilitating back injury.
Knox continued the rhetoric of axiom, “They can chant Michael Porter all they want, but they got Kevin Knox.” Ultimately, Porter Jr. free-fell to the last pick of the lottery. Yet the mass postulated his potential significantly outweigh Knox’s readiness.
The fans ceased to desist from their general wide-eyed and tight-lipped expressions. Knox, in a well-fitted tux accompanied by a tightly knotted bowtie, popped out of his seat enthusiastically, wary of fans’ genuine indignation. Often, Knox let his play on the court do the talking. This time, he could not escape the heat of the moment. Behind all the boos, and behind the podium, sat a player who decided the boos were going to act as a singular noun: Motivation.
His voice never wavered, his eyes glared, “It’s just motivation. I’m ready to prove people in summer league, and prove people in the NBA.” Cameras shuttered and lights radiated tense air. For a rookie, Knox sounded accustomed to the floodlights of fame.
That’s because Knox has been in this same position before. Kevin Knox is congenial to the pitfall that eats away at New York’s greatest athletes. As a child, Kevin venerated his father, who played next to Charlie Ward, a star receiver in his own right. At 13, Kevin was praised for his extraordinary quarterback skills. The young boy was lauded and praised by a community of college football coaches. Alas, Knox was ultimately forced to put down the football after his sophomore year. His height turned his favorite sport into taboo, the athlete searched for a sport that befitted his 6’9’’ frame. He dribbled a basketball and never looked back.
Once he turned to basketball, Knox recycled his football athleticism into basketball explosiveness. Three straight years of 20+plus scoring at Tampa Catholic High School put him in contention for top player in the country. He spurned offers from Florida State, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and a myriad of other top universities. In doing so, he chose to confront the affliction and obligation of playing under John Calipari.
For such a smooth player, Knox’s stroke is mechanical and slow-moving. He releases the ball prior to reaching the peak of his jump. His current form caused him to make an inconsistent 1.5 threes on 4.5 attempts per game. That 34.1% will drop with the extended 3-point line.
For all his shooting woes, Knox still can become a knockdown shooter. In 15 games from January 23rd to March 11 (the stretch run of the ACC Tournament), Knox shot three-pointers at a rate of 41.9%.
Even without a dependable jump-shot, Knox found alternative ways to score. He can put down the ball like a guard and use his 7’0” wingspan to place the cookie in the cookie jar. When put at the 4, he leaves opponents in the dust, getting to the rim hastily or pulling up abruptly. At the 2 or 3, he can use his intimidating size to back down and either fade away or ‘bully-ball’ them.
His shooting in college sharpened as competition increased, and his statistical prepotency has mostly carried over to Summer League.
So far, Knox is 4th in scoring in Las Vegas. While his 35% shooting from the field is principally underwhelming, the outstanding number is confounding, specific variances differentiate the glorified tryout from a typical NBA game. which is more physical than the average NBA game. Notably, players are allowed 10 fouls before fouling out. Often times, Knox was jostled from a position on the block and detracted from attempting easy layups. His slight build –Knox is 216 pounds– and youth –He is the youngest rookie– will allow him to be bumped around like a pinball. His angular stature is troublesome, but a recent rookie dealt with similar trepidations last year.
After producing a solid season on Duke, but giving up shots to Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum mirrors Knox’s image. Knox was also surrounded by other highly touted prospects; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt. On a bigger stage, Knox can do the same as Tatum: make a larger impact in an expanded role.
In terms of exposure, the Summer League has never been more watched. ESPN is streaming the summer league on ESPN3, so fans can watch the action on their phones. Doris Burke and Isaiah Thomas lead a highly-touted broadcasting team of well-respected individuals in the basketball circles.
Fans fill the seats, popcorn in hand, ready to jump at the opportune moment: a poster by an NBA journeyman or a filthy crossover by a draft-and-stash prospect. The fact that Las Vegas, notable party town, could draw the attention it has epitomized the growth of the NBA into an all-year event. The universal cliche about Vegas is nullified once the ball meets the court. What stays in Vegas Summer League, leaves Vegas fleetingly. Every fan, scout, and executive know who Kevin Knox is.
In a league where rookies monopolize headlines, fans are exploring for the next big thing, on any platform they can get their hands on. Last year, fans flocked to get a glimpse of controversial star Lonzo Ball. This time, Kevin Knox is the personification of Summer League stardom.
Even more, the league is entranced by wings that can handle the ball. Knox is essentially the paragon to GM’s and scouts adornment. He attacked the rim in summer league, but not before hesitating defenders out of their shoes. Knox weaved in and out of traffic, like a scene of Fast and Furious, attacking the rim with a sense of vengeance. He sped past the free-throw line and took off with an elongated 1-2 step. Launching off the floor, gripping the ball firmly, Knox threw the ball through the rim. The attenuated player threw his arms back, like he was amidst a steep drop in a roller coaster ride, and threw the ball down into the rim. Then, the former Kentucky star clutched the cylinder and propelled off it, performing an in-air pullup over his unsuspecting defender.
Kevin Knox cocked his head towards the bench, smiling. He didn’t take any time to celebrate. Knox had been in this moment before. Steady motivation will inevitably turn the jeers into cheers.