Kevin Knox still has visions of making the Knicks’ rotation this season despite his summer-league COVID-19 setback.
The Knicks’ 2018 lottery pick knows what he has to do to regain Tom Thibodeau’s trust. And it’s not just about making 3-point shots in preseason — which starts Tuesday versus Indiana.
The 6-foot-9 combo forward from Kentucky who has fallen out of favor still believes he can guard four positions and have a future in New York. Knox enters the final year of his four-year rookie contract.
“[Thibodeau] really preaches if your shot’s not going in or having a bad shooting day, what else can you bring to the team?,’’ Knox said after Sunday’s practice in his first public remarks since Feb. 2. “For myself, using my length, using my height and my body to really focus on rebounding and defending on the other end. I really feel I can guard 1-to-4. That’s what he really wants to see from me — locking in on that end.
“He knows what I can do on the offensive end. He wants to see that defensive energy, the rebounding and really flying in transition and using my length all over the court.’’
Without a definite role, Knox’s future is in doubt as he becomes a restricted free agent after the season. Chances are very slim the 22-year-old will get a contract extension by the deadline later this month.
Asked by The Post if he thinks he’ll be here all season, Knox said, “Right now, no one has really solidified minutes, solidified starters and bench players. So it’s going into camp, going into the season with the right mindset that I really want to play this year. So I’m going to have to figure out a way to stay on the court and get minutes. So I’m really not worried about the trades and everything else. I’m just worried about getting in the rotation and being on the court.’’
Thibodeau said Knox missing summer league was a big blow to his progression. The Knicks head coach made a point to mention how 2020 first-round picks, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, were in Tarrytown every day.
Knox trained much of the offseason in Miami and his hometown Tampa. He came to Tarrytown three weeks before training camp.
Knox confirmed he contracted COVID-19 in Miami and had some symptoms. Knox said Thibodeau “really wanted me to play’’ summer league. Knox was all for it.
“I was staying in Miami and I got sick,’’ Knox said. “I was down for a couple of weeks. It was difficult. I trained really hard to go to summer league, play again and actually get some runs and minutes. I got my body ready and COVID hit me.”
Missing the six-game slate wasn’t the only setback. “I was out for 10 days and then I was able to do some bike and push-ups,’’ Knox said. “I lost some weight. But I put it on pretty quick. But I’d never lost weight. The first week or two I had trouble getting my wind back but once I got it back I kept pushing to get my conditioning right for camp.’’
The Post reported Friday Thibodeau’s been reluctant to play Knox because of the player’s low motor on defense. He fell out of the rotation in late January.
“You can only base it on when he’s there and what he’s doing,’’ Thibodeau said. “Unfortunately he missed that [summer-league] opportunity. He’s had some really good practices. He’s got to continue to work. And then it’s how he fits into the group.
“His strengths are his strengths. The shotmaking. The areas of his game he has to improve — it’s all the other things. To know you can play well if you don’t shoot well. No one shoots well in every game. There’s other aspects of the game you have to perform well in to help the team win when you’re not shooting well. That’s the challenge — to be an all-around player.’’
It’s now or never for Knox as a Knick. Team president Leon Rose is close to Kentucky coach John Calipari but was a Creative Artists Agency rep when Knox was drafted ninth.
“I got to compete for it,’’ Knox said. “Everything Thibs preaches is working for your spot , working for your minutes. That’s my mindset going into camp. Really working hard for my minutes, working hard to get into the rotation. That’s my motivation — to play hard on both sides of the basketball court if I really want to be on the court.’’
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