Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Mark Edwards is a life-long Knicks fan. So he knows how desperate the fanbase is for a winner.
Edwards is also a long-time basketball trainer. In his 26-year career, Edwards has trained dozens of pros, including Terrence Ross and Mike Scott, as well as hundreds of college players.
This summer, he worked with Knicks' second-year wing Kevin Knox, and Edwards has a message for Knicks fans keeping an eye on Knox: be patient.
"Kevin has All-Star potential. You just need to give him a chance to grow," Edwards, a New York City native, said in a phone interview. "His body is still developing. His mind is still catching up to the speed of the game. Things are going to start becoming more instinctive for him.
"He will be fine. He's building on his foundation every day. He's in the gym every opportunity that he can be. He's there getting shots up. He's working. He's only habits are (playing NBA2K) and the practice facility. That's it. He's very predictable. So it's just a matter of time."
Knox's numbers don't jump off the page yet. He's shown flashes of potential in the first 100-plus games of his career. But, as you'd expect for a 20-year-old, he's also struggled at times.
Below, Edwards discusses his work with Knox and why he believes the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft will be just fine if he's given the opportunity to develop:
Edwards and Knox first worked together in August in Los Angeles, with their work that week focusing on ballhandling.
"He took some great strides," Edwards said. "He's able to pick stuff up and translate it to his skill set really quickly."
Knox suffered a leg injury during a scrimmage with Nets players in LA that limited his training for the rest of the summer. Edwards went to Tampa to work with Knox later in the offseason.
"We just did light work because he was still recovering," Edwards said.
Knox then reinjured the leg prior to the preseason, limiting his court time entering the regular season. Edwards believes Knox has only recently returned to full health and regained his conditioning/burst.
"I think where he is now athletically is where he would have been without the injuries," Edwards says. "You see Kev taking off and getting some dunks and blocking some shots and using his length. Before when he was going down the lane, he wasn't thinking about the dunk. He was going for the layup. He didn't want to overextend himself and get hurt. I think he was jumping off two feet a little bit, possibly trying not to hurt himself. But now I think he's fully, 1,000 percent healthy and he's ready to go."
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK HIS CEILING IS? DO YOU THINK IT'S TOO EARLY TO MAKE JUDGEMENTS ABOUT WHAT KNOX IS - OR WHAT HE WILL BE - GIVEN HIS AGE (20 YEARS OLD)?
EDWARDS: "Knicks fans are desperate to have a good team and you have to respect that. I grew up as a Knick fan, watching teams with Bernard King and then Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell, all those guys. So there's a legacy of play in New York City that people expect. They expect to see greatness. They expect to see the young guys being great. But what they have to understand is that these are young guys.
"What they don't know about Kevin is, Kevin is about the work. Sometimes he'll leave Madison Square Garden after a game and he's going to the training center with his parents and getting up shots. Most days, the day before the game, Kevin will put up 500-700 jumpers and work on his handle, work on a bunch of finishes. He's constantly working. So they have to be patient. You can't expect a guy who is just out of his teenage years to be a super star in a league of men. The guys you have to worry about are the guys who are not putting in the extra work. The guys who are not staying after practice. The guys who are not coming in there all the time and getting shots up. This is a game of buckets. Guys in the league have to be able to score points. There are a lot of terrible defensive players who are great offensive players. Kevin is a kid that's concerned with both. They're talking about getting his motor running a little higher. And he's definitely working on his ability to shoot a better percentage from the field, from the free-throw line. So he's a kid that's working. It's going to click. It just takes time. Everybody is not going to be successful at the same time. That's just a fact… (For Kevin), the work is there, the effort is there, the love of the game is there.
"The other thing about Kev, people need to know this: he's not out there being a party animal. After games, he's going home, he's resting his body. He's taking his naps. He's got a personal chef so he's eating right. He's learning how to be a professional on the fly. Think about Kemba Walker. He did three years in college. Three years. And then he came to the NBA and it still took him 2-3 years to find himself and now he's a superstar. Everyone's path is different. I know Knicks fans appreciate hard work, and that's Kev. The game is going to start to become really simple for him based on the amount of work he puts in. It's just a learning process."
Q: WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN FROM KNOX DEFENSIVELY?
EDWARDS: "What I've seen is just his motor has picked up. I think his motor would have been on point if he wasn't injured coming into the season. Athletically, if he were healthy to start the season, he would have been able to be a little bit more intense on defense. His length is amazing. He's got a plus 7-foot wingspan. He's got a lot of versatility when it comes to the defensive end.
But I think from a team defensive perspective, I think it hurts him because I don't think the Knicks' team defense is rated high. And I've never heard of a good defensive player being able to stand out on a bad defensive team (Knicks defensive numbers). If you're a good defender, on a good defensive team, you know if you go to help (off of your man) someone will rotate to your spot. That doesn't happen on bad defensive teams. I think the Knicks are still coming together in that regard. I think they're figuring it out. They have some good pieces. Frank (Ntilikina) is an incredible defender, he's a pest. He'll put pressure on the ball. Long arms, great length. Good athleticism. But unless he's got guys behind him with the same mentality, his defensive effort is kind of thwarted. Because he'll get caught on a pick and no one rotates over. It's all about rotations. And I think it's going to take some time for them to get that going."
Q: HAVE YOU SEEN YOUR BALLHANDLING WORK WITH KEVIN TRANSLATE TO GAMES?
EDWARDS: I see it in spurts. I think it's a little bit more difficult to showcase new movement if you're constantly looking over your shoulder, not being sure of how many minutes you're going to play regardless of (how you play). Most veterans will know, "I'm coming in the game at this point, I'll be out at this point and I'll be back in at this point." I think with Kev, his minutes had been so sporadic, he was looking over his shoulder a lot. For him, I think he went to take the more comfortable route which is knocking down the open shot - which he's really good at doing. But I think if he was a little bit more confident in his playing time then he'd arguably get better shot attempts, he'd be able to showcase his ability to handle the ball. Going left to right, that's his thing. Behind the back, between the legs, front cross, he's really proficient in those movements to create his own shot. And now you see him put together different movements, probing the defense to see where there's openings where before, he would take the quick hitter. RJ Barrett does that really well. (Barrett is) going to probe and attack. And I think RJ feels comfortable that he's going to get enough playing time to find his game. Find the holes, pick opportunities on the court to (probe) and shoot the ball. So he's comfortable doing that.
"Kev, I think he's still finding that. He's still looking for the coaching staff to trust him a little bit more. And in time it's going to happen. But it's a new coach and he's trying to figure out the lineups and who to put in which spot, and so forth. So I think it's going to be a learning curve for Kev and for the new coach as well."
Q: HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT HIS INCREASED STRENGTH HAS HELPED HIS SHOT?
EDWARDS: I've definitely noticed it. He shoots long distance threes by flicking his wrist. You look at his body, his arms, he's a lot bigger than he was last year. He's still 20 years old. So if you look at a guy like James Harden: look at James Harden's body at 20 years old and look at it now. He's probably got 12-15 pounds of extra muscle on him. So when he initiates contact with somebody, they bounce off of him. So he can play through the contact. Kev, he's still young. He's going to be fine. He's definitely stronger. I saw him put in the work in the weight room (last summer). I think this offseason he's going to put the work in the weight room as well."