Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
If you look at the box score of Friday's Knicks-Sixers game, Kevin Knox's DNP-CD makes sense. With Knox on the bench, the Knicks had a chance to win a game against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
But if you dig a little deeper, the idea that Knox -- the Knicks' 2018 first-round pick -- didn't play at all Friday night leads to questions about New York's direction this season.
The Knicks, as you know, spent $70 million in free agency over the summer. So they came into the season expecting to be much more competitive than last year's 17-win team.
Part of the plan was for the free agents to help New York win some games and build a competitive environment for the young players.
Maybe they've executed the second part of that plan. But they've fallen woefully short on the first part. The Knicks fell to 4-15 on Friday -- one game worse than their record through 19 games last season.
If the Knicks were winning games with behind their veterans, sitting Knox would make sense. But when he's losing minutes in favor of veterans with no long-term future in New York, it doesn't fully add up.
Before the game on Friday, head coach David Fizdale was asked about Knox. Here's what he said:
"I think Kevin's OK. I think everybody else is making a big deal about me being tough on Kevin. Last year was a different year. This year, we've got some veteran guys who can get the job done and I want Kevin to learn his responsibilities in a different way. And sometimes that's tough love. And Kevin's taking it the right way and he's going about it the right way and he's working the right way."
The veterans Fizdale referenced obviously didn't get the job done on Friday. And, if you judge these things by wins and losses, they haven't gotten the job done for much of the season.
So, at some point soon, you'd think the Knicks start to play young players like Knox ahead of the veterans in the name of player development, like they did last season around Christmas.
Knox, by the way, said all of the right things when he talked about his DNP after Friday's game. He said he knows he has to improve on defense and will get to work in practice and in the film room to get better. He also says he can develop as a player without playing time.
Again, holding Knox accountable for his defensive mistakes is a sound policy. Keeping him off the court until he earns his minutes by executing on defense makes all the sense in the world.
But when the Knicks are 11 games under .500 and Knox is losing out on minutes to players who don't appear to have a long-term future in New York, it leads to natural questions the team's direction.
Free throws killing Knicks
Knox's DNP aside, the Knicks had every opportunity to beat Philly on Friday.
They built a 16-point lead late in the second quarter and endured Philly's runs through much of the second half but came up short down the stretch. They went 1 for 8 from beyond the arc in the second half, which hurt.
Worse than that was their performance from the free-throw line. New York finished 19-for-33 from the line. They Knicks own the worst team free-throw percentage in the NBA by a wide margin.
"Brother, I'm about to put sage in the room" - David Fizdale on whether or not the Knicks can do anything differently in practice to improve free throw shooting pic.twitter.com/Lpb9zFjIP0- Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) November 30, 2019
"If you go back through a majority of our close-game losses, I would say on average we probably shot 68 percent or less in the losses," Fizdale said. "Our margin for error, we just don't have that luxury to miss that many free throws in a close game."
Fizdale was asked if the Knicks do any extra work on their free throws in practices.
"Brother, I'm about to put sage in the room," he said. "We've done so much different stuff. In the gym, when we're shooting free throws and working on them, guys make their free throws. Our percentages are up (during practices). But for some reason, when we get into the games we're just not knocking them down at the level I know we're capable of. Again, we just don't have that margin for error to shoot under 70 percent in a game, especially in the close games."