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Tom Thibodeau reiterated Saturday that “everything is on the table,” for the Knicks to potentially shake up their lineup while stuck in a five-game losing streak.
Rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley has put his name in the hat with the recent jolt he has delivered off the bench, but so has another Kentucky product with a surprising 3-point touch: Kevin Knox.
The third-year forward has stepped up his shooting from beyond the arc, hitting on 44 percent (22-for-50) through 13 games off the bench for a team that often struggles in that area. But Thibodeau said he can still impact the game in more areas than just his sharpshooting from downtown.
“I like him taking the shots that he’s taking,” the coach said Saturday as the Knicks prepared for their game Sunday at Boston. “I think he could do more in transition, running the floor. I do like him off catch-and-shoot. That’s hard to guard, coming off a screen where he can attack the gap. I think he’s very effective in those situations. But the big thing is, I think he feels really good about where his shot is right now. We want him to continue to work on it. It obviously adds a lot to what we can do in terms of opening up the floor.”
The Knicks have been without their top 3-point shooter, Alec Burks, since the third game of the season. Thibodeau said Friday that Burks was getting closer to returning, but in the meantime, Knox has tried to fill the void while playing a different role than he did during his first two years.
Knox had the ball in his hands often as a rookie, after being the No. 9-overall pick in 2018, but took a step back last season while playing less. He has continued to be a bench player this season, averaging 8.2 points in 21.7 minutes per game, but has been more effective catching and shooting from beyond the arc.
“I think this year I’m doing a really good job of just doing what the team asks me to do,” Knox said. “That’s just playing with energy on both sides, knocking down shots. If they close out hard, being aggressive and just making the right reads, driving to the basket. I don’t want to just be labeled as a shooter, I want to do multiple things. But if I’m going to have the shot, I’m going to continue to shoot it.”
Knox, who is still just 21, shot 33.7 percent from 3-point range over his first two seasons in the NBA. This year, he is not only shooting better from deep, but also shooting more 3s (3.8 attempts per game) than 2-point field goals (three attempts per game). Knox attributed the improved shooting to putting up more reps over the summer.
“Confidence is huge in the league now,” Knox said. “Just being able to know I can knock down any shot from any spot on the court and keeping that confidence throughout the season.”
The Knicks, meanwhile, are trying to stay confident despite the recent results. Their 5-3 start has been followed by the current five-game losing streak, forcing Thibodeau to consider whether to tweak the lineup or to stick with the group that has started 11 of 13 games, trusting that they will find their rhythm with time.
“There’s still an evaluation process that’s going on,” Thibodeau said, noting injuries and a shortened training camp. “While that’s going on, you’re also focused on your improvement and the things you feel you need to do to get better. So everything is on the table. We’ll be taking a look at different guys as we go forward.”