Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Last season, David Fizdale introduced Kevin Knox to LeBron James after a Lakers-Knicks game at the Garden.
James and Knox spoke for several minutes in the hallway outside of the visitors' locker room at MSG. James' message that day has stayed with Knox as he navigates life in the NBA's biggest market.
"One of the biggest things that he said was really just staying locked in throughout the whole season, through ups and downs. Social media is going to try to bring you down. There's going to be times when they're going to hype you up. He was just telling me to stay level-headed," Knox said in a Q&A on Twitter for the league's "NBA Together" program during the coronavirus crisis. "Because there are times when he doesn't have great games. He was telling me that he's not really worried about what people are saying. He's just getting back into the lab, back into the gym, putting more work in."
James' point about social media is one that past Knicks coaches have mentioned in recent seasons. Those coaches have suggested that players limit their time on social media because of the volume of negativity players may see.
"It's a nightmare," one former coach said earlier this season. "I wished all of our guys would just stay off of it."
Several coaches and players have said privately that the sheer volume of interactions for Knicks players on social media is much larger than other markets. That makes sense, given the size of the fan base and the amount of media coverage the team receives. (Presumably, Lakers players have a similar experience on social media).
You'd think that can be helpful when a team is playing well. But the Knicks haven't had any success to speak of over the last six years. And coaches and players on recent teams have talked about the negative impact that media and fan criticisms on social media can have on a player in New York. Players and coaches also hear criticism from traditional media, but they've said that the social media criticism tends to have more vitriol and can at times be more personal in nature.
"Guys can get lost on there," one former Knick said. "It can eat away at you."
Former Knick Brandon Jennings deleted his social media in the middle of his lone season in New York. He said at the time that the volume and tone of messages he'd seen from Knicks fans -- and, presumably, media -- caused him to get rid of the apps.
So it's probably a good sign for the Knicks that Knox took James' advice seriously.
Knox's offensive numbers dipped in his second season as his minutes decreased. While Knicks coaches believe Knox made sizable improvements on defense, he didn't make the kind of leap on offense that many expected.
So you can be sure that Knox saw plenty of media/fan criticism on his social media pages. If he was able to tune it out -- as James suggested -- that would allow him to avoid a potential distraction.
For what it's worth, people around the team say Knox has the kind of temperament that's needed to thrive in a market like New York. They say he isn't easily rattled and can tune out outside noise.
If the NBA decides to cancel the rest of the regular season, Knox will begin a pivotal offseason in his young career. He'll be playing for a new team president (Leon Rose) and, presumably, a new head coach. Neither will have the kind of investment in Knox's success that the execs and coach who drafted him had. So Knox will need to show Rose and the Knicks' next head coach (if it isn't Mike Miller) that he deserves to a play a significant role on the 2020-21 team.