It didn’t end with “One Shining Moment’’ Wednesday for the Knicks three rookies: Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier.
In the season finale, Knox shot 3-of-12 and 0-for-6 on 3s. Robinson’s block streak ended at 38 games as the night belonged to Detroit strongman Andre Drummond. Trier sat out with a calf/knee issue that cost him the season’s final three weeks.
Nevertheless, Knicks coach David Fizdale laid on the sugar when asked if he was relieved the league-worst 17-65 season was over.
Fizdale launched into a monologue on the rookie trio, noting their accomplishments, stamping 2018-’19 a success. Maybe Fizdale was just warming up for his recruiting speech to Kevin Durant on July 1.
“I’m ready for the excitement of the summer,’’ Fizdale said. “There’s a lot of good stuff we can take from the season, especially from the young guys.”
There’s debate on how successful their player development went. Frank Ntilikina, their 2017 lottery pick, took a step backward with durability now an issue. Kristaps Porzingis never got on the court and wanted out. Mario Hezonja, despite a big finish, didn’t show consistency.
Trier, who fell out of the draft because of failed steroid tests, also had durability issues after December. Knox’s rookie season is worthy of a one-hour debate.
However, there is no question about the 7-1 Robinson. Falling to the second round, Knicks GM Scott Perry got a steal because of Robinson’s unorthodox, college-dropout backstory.
Fizdale said reordering the draft based on performance, Robinson would have been a top-10 pick, while Knox lived up to No. 9.
Indeed, the Knicks’ rookie trio was the best collection of first-year players outside of Atlanta (Trae Young-Omari Spellman-Kevin Huerter) and Phoenix (De’Andre Ayton-Mikal Bridges-Elie Okobo).
That could also mean the Knick threesome wind up as potential pawns for Anthony Davis on Draft Night.
“The fact Mitchell finished second in blocks in the league – most people didn’t know who he was,’’ Fizdale said. “Here he is playing 20 minutes a game and he finished second in blocks. I had no idea who this kid was. Scott (Perry) and them were talking about him. We watched the little bit of film that we had for the draft. Once he got here, he kept growing so fast. It was like, we really fell into something here.
“I think we can all agree if we had to restructure the draft right now, I don’t think he’ll go 36. I think he’d be in that top-10 pretty easily.”
Knox showed slight progression since March. His shooting percentage still wound up an abysmal 37 percent. He looked more the part in the final weeks, stronger to the basket and smoother on his 3-point shot with defense still is a major issue.
“As up and down as Kevin’s season was, for a 19-year-old to do some of the stuff he did this year, I thought it was exceptional,’’ Fizdale said.
Fizdale rattled off his accomplishments, winning December’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, becoming one of six teenagers to hit over 100 3-pointers and making the Rising Stars Challenge — even if as an alternate.
“I feel a lot more comfortable just on the court, especially toward the end of the season,’’ Knox said after the finale. “Just after the All-Star break I felt a lot more comfortable just being out there offensively and defensively. There’s still a lot of things I have to work on, but from Game 1 to Game 82, I feel like a totally different player.”
Trier entered with meager expectations after signing a two-way G League deal and never spent a second with Westchester. His scoring prowess was so dynamic (10.9 ppg), the Knicks converted his deal into a regular two-year contract, though the second year is a team option.
Trier sustained a hamstring injury in December that cost him seven straight games and some overcompensation led to his second leg injury as he finished playing 64 contests.
“To pluck that away and have a two-way guy who ends up getting a contract and earn a roster spot, is something to marvel at,’’ Fizdale said. “Kevin played as a ninth pick should. He’s talented, he’s young. But those two guys (Robinson, Trier) were surprises for us. Kudos to Scott Perry and his staff.’’
Robinson, who turned 21 on April 1, will look to add a jump shot to an arsenal of alley-oop dunks and putback jams. He played within himself, finishing at 69.4 percent from the field. No rookie had ever shot 68-percent in a season with at least 200 attempts.
Robinson set a new Knicks rookie record for most blocks in a season, with 161 compared to Porzingis’ 134, and finished second in the NBA in blocks per game (2.4).
Fizdale even said the historic amount of losing was good for the rookies.
“It’s all great experiences for these young guys because they have it under their belt,’’ Fizdale said. “I think next year it’s going to make them better.’’
Published at Thu, 11 Apr 2019 20:14:32 +0000