“One thing that the Knicks fans can understand about the Knox family is that nobody works harder than the Knox’s,’’ Kevin Knox Sr. said. “And we’re a blue-collar family. We’ve always had a chip on our shoulder. I think that’s why Kevin’s always had success wherever he went.’’
The Knicks used the No. 9 pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft on Knox, a versatile 6-foot-9 forward from Kentucky, who averaged 15.6 points. A lot has been made about his sweet stroke and ability to stretch defenses.
But that’s not what might separate Knox from the group of very talented forwards that was in this draft.
Call him Hard Knox.
It goes beyond Knox playing quarterback in high school until he was a sophomore. It’s the kind of quarterback he wanted to emulate. Yes, he admires Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but he loves the way Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson play the game with an utter disregard for their bodies,
Knox, 18, is hard to the core, a trait that jumped out at the Knicks when they had the second youngest player in the draft in for a workout. It was, according to one person familiar with the workout, a street fight.
“He really responded well to the physicality,’’ said Knicks coach David Fizdale. “That was, I would say, our best workout out of all the workouts we had. You’re talking about physical, guys hitting the floor.
“There were possessions where a guy turns the ball over, chases the other guy down, block a dunk at the rim. No one was giving an inch in that workout. The fact that he shined in that workout says a lot about him.”
So does this. Although Knox was able to joke about it on Friday when he was officially introduced at the team’s training facility, the fact that Knicks fans booed him on draft night won’t soon be forgotten.
Knox said he got a Facetime phone call Thursday night from Knicks star forward Kristaps Porzingis. KP was booed when the Knicks took him with the 4th pick in 2015.
“I told him I got the same amount of boos you got,’’ Knox said. “He just laughed and he said, ‘It’s all motivation. Just work and sooner or later they’ll be cheering for you.’’
It’s a funny anecdote for sure. Knox’s dad said his son is not laughing on the inside.
“To hear those words, he’s going to definitely continue to work hard to prove to people he does belong here,’’ said Knox Sr. “And he’s also heard that we haven’t won a championship since 1973. We haven’t really been in deep in the playoffs in a long time. Those things marinate with Kevin and he’s going to work very hard. He’ll do his part.’’
Which begs the question, what will Knox’s role be on the Knicks in his rookie season? Fizdale not only said he has no hesitation starting the rookie if he earns the spot, he offered up a lofty comparison.
“We all like how that kid is looking in Boston now,’’ Fizdale said referring to Jason Tatum. “I’m not putting that pressure on this kid to be him. But it just does when you have that skill set at that height, that athleticism. I see him being a very productive player.’’
Fizdale noted Knox’s desire to play at Kentucky, which has the most fervent fan base in the nation, and his desire to play in New York, which has the nation’s largest media market, also says a lot about the rookie’s fortitude. It was shaped at home.
Kevin Sr. played one season in the NFL with Arizona Cardinals. He’s spent the last 10 years working for the Tampa Housing Authority, working to keep children on the right path. He wants to work with the New York City Housing Authority if given the chance.
Kevin Jr. volunteered for his father in the summer, mentoring kids. His mother, Michelle, has been a social worker in Tampa for 17 years. Blue color; red hearts.
“He’s extremely competitive and I have yet to see him be a part of a losing situation,’’ said Kevin Sr. “Everywhere he’s been, from high school to college he’s always embraced the big stage. So, I don’t expect anything less than a hard-working individual.’’
Hard Knox. Sweet Shot. Just what the Knicks wanted in this draft.
By Lenn Robbins, MSG Networks