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  1. Sports

Playing time with New York Knicks for Tampa’s Kevin Knox is in free fall

Much like the NBA team, it’s a mystery. Interim coach Mike Miller likes what he sees of the 2018 first-round pick, so why dwindling minutes and paltry stats?
The Knicks' Kevin Knox looks to pass as two Suns players defend him during the first half in a game on Jan. 16, 2020. [KATHY WILLENS | AP]

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Mike Miller can’t say enough nice things about Kevin Knox’s improving overall game. The Knicks’ interim coach was practically gushing about the second-year pro and former Tampa Catholic standout after practice Thursday.

What Miller didn’t say is he was going to give Knox more minutes and a greater role over the Knicks’ final 27 games of the season beginning Friday against the Pacers at Madison Square Garden. And that might speak more accurately about the confusing state of the No. 9 overall pick from the 2018 draft.

Miller will probably not be coaching the Knicks next season. Scott Perry might not be back as the general manager. Steve Mills is already out as team president.

If agent Leon Rose takes over as team president, as expected, he and his likely brand-new brain trust will be the ones making the decisions about Knox’s future — and it’s likely none of them will have had any role in drafting the Kentucky product and thus no legacy stake in his success or failure as a pro.

But, boy, you’d think the 20-year-old would be further along now. Or that the current Knicks management would want to take a longer look before the season ends just because what the heck else do the team’s fans have to root for other than Knox and last year’s No. 3 overall pick, RJ Barrett, turning into a true dynamic duo?

For example, more minutes could be available for someone (or two someones) on Friday as Wayne Ellington (strained right ankle) and Elfrid Payton (sore right ankle) are both listed as questionable. But there’s no guarantee Knox will be the recipient of those potential extra minutes for the 17-38 Knicks, who stand 13th in the 15-team Eastern Conference.

“That’s something I hope for,” Knox said. “I don’t know with the coaches and how the minutes are going to go, but that’s something I would like. Just going out there, if I play 10 minutes, if I play 25, 30, leave it all on the floor. Offensively, defensively, really just trying to play hard on both sides of the court.”

The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging just 18.3 minutes and 6.8 points per game this season, down from 28.8 and 12.8, respectively, last season. In the past 10 games, both averages are lower — 14.8 minutes and 4.0 points.

Knox said his plan is “just going out there and just playing aggressive on both sides of the basketball floor. Just going out there and trying to compete the opportunities I have. I’m not going to do everything right — no player does everything right — but just trying to give it all I’ve got, make the most of the opportunity I get.”

But will more opportunity be given to Knox? Miller didn’t say. But he did say he’s liking what he sees in Knox’s cameos lately.

“We’re seeing those things,” Miller said. “It’s ‘let’s keep putting those together. Let’s each time coming out and doing those things.’ It’s not necessarily scoring, making shots and that’s what we’ve talked to him about — being a guy that makes people on the floor feel better about the things that you’re doing. It might be scoring, it might be his cutting, it might be his finishing, it might be his defense, his help. There’s so many ways he can impact it.”

correction: Interim Knicks coach Mike Miller played college basketball at Texas A&M–Commerce but never in the NBA. A previous version of this story confused him with former University of Florida star Mike Miller, currently an assistant coach at the University of Memphis and a veteran of 17 NBA seasons.