Sports

Kevin Knox is Ready for New York

In a sit-down Q&A with VICE Sports, the New York Knicks rookie goes over his summer, Jimmy Butler rumors, and why he can't wait to face Kevin Durant.
September 21, 2018, 2:26pm
Photo by Jason Szenes - European Pressphoto Agency

On a cloudy afternoon, five stories above the streets of SoHo, 45 minutes from the new White Plains abode he's still settling into, Kevin Knox folds his lanky 6’9” frame onto a white couch. Accompanied by his mother, a financial advisor, and representatives from his management team, the striking, impossibly young New York Knicks rookie—he turned 19 in August—is here to promote Subway’s new sandwich line (meatball marinara and sweet onion chicken teriyaki are his staples), beam through a photo-shoot, sit through a gauntlet of interviews, and, relative to the constant grind of his first few months as an NBA player, relax.

Advertisement

Knox comes off as humble, reserved, and stone-faced, in a vanilla-white t-shirt, grey jeans, and creaseless Air Force 1’s. Hours removed from his official team physical with the Knicks, Knox sits down to discuss his Summer League breakout, Jimmy Butler trade rumors, what he’s already spent his money on, how it feels to already be admired by his peers, and more. Our interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.


VICE Sports: How has your summer been?

Kevin Knox: It’s been pretty good. Hectic summer, as far as travel, Summer League, playing here, going home, training. But it was also a fun summer. I got to experience a bunch of stuff.

VS: Where’d you spent most of your time?

Knox: I was in Miami for two months, pre-draft there. Then went to Vegas. After Summer League I went to L.A. for like a week. Chilled out there. Went back to Vegas for another two weeks, then came back here to New York for a few weeks. Got situated. Went home to Tampa, Florida for like a week, came back here, went home. So I’ve been traveling a lot throughout the summer. My agency is based out of Miami so that’s why I had pre-draft workouts there.

VS: Were you working out with other NBA players or did you stay around the Knicks?

Knox: Mostly working out with the Knicks, training with them, doing conditioning. Six weeks, eight weeks with them, getting ready for training camp basically. We’d come in the morning, lift, run, do workouts, play pickup, then pretty much just go home and chill. We’ve got like 14 Knicks here, between the G-league and regular team.

Advertisement

VS: What’s the biggest thing you purchased so far?

Knox: I haven’t really made no crazy purchases to be honest with you, but you go out and buy your car, your nice clothes. I got a Range Rover. I had a Porsche at first but it was kinda small. Then I got the Range Rover. I got it custom made so it’s really nice. I got a red interior. I got a refrigerator. Massage seats. TV’s in the back. I got an outlet in the back so you can play video games. I hooked it up.

VS: Do you drive yourself around?

Knox: Oh yeah I drive myself! Hell nah. You custom make your own car, ain’t nobody else driving that.

VS: Did you surprise yourself at Summer League at all?

Knox: No, not really. I knew pre-draft in Miami, I put in a lot of work. A lot of people said I had a lot of weaknesses and I made them strengths. I put a lot of work in, two-a-days every single day, three-a-days some days. I [attribute] a lot of it to my trainers who helped support me throughout it. But it didn’t surprise me at all. I knew what I had to do. Fizdale wanted me to go out there and be in attack mode pretty much all game, so that’s what I did.

VS: What was the most memorable moment for you at Summer League?

Knox: Probably the Lakers game, when I heated up. That was crazy. The crowd was going nuts. I mean, I think we was down 15, the next thing you know I hit three straight threes and we was in the game. Crowd going crazy. It was nuts. That was probably my favorite game.

Advertisement

VS: There wasn’t a ton of spacing or depth at Kentucky, and you had to play a ton of minutes. How do you think that prepares you for the NBA?

Knox: At Kentucky, the environment and the coaching staff is going to prepare you for the next level, but the way we played in college…there’s not a lot of spacing in college at all. So, I mean, you’ve just got to be able to play off the ball. That was kind of my role at Kentucky. Play off the ball, come off screens, be able to catch and shoot, make plays off the catch, and that’s gonna help me in the NBA. A lot of times I’m not going to be dribbling the ball. I’m gonna be off the ball. So that’s just gonna help me. I learned a lot at Kentucky. I mean Frank, Mudiay, Trey Burke, they’re gonna have the ball in their hands a lot because they’re of course the point guards so I’m gonna be off the ball a lot. That just helped me out a lot, experiencing that before I got here.

VS: What was the primary aspect of your game that you wanted to work on this summer?

Knox: Probably ball-handling. Of course the three-point line is a little bit deeper. Being able to extend my range. In pick-and-roll situations, I feel like the NBA is all pick-and-rolls, so I want to be able to handle the ball in pick-and-rolls and make the right read, make the right passes, and make plays for my teammates. I’ve been working on that all summer.

VS: You said Coach Fizdale wanted you to be aggressive from the jump in Las Vegas. Has he mentioned anything else he wants you to work on this summer?

Advertisement

Knox: He wanted me to get in shape, which I did. I ran every single day. So, I mean, just being able to play out the post. He wanted me to play a lot in the post and off the elbows in situations. He feels like that’s where I’m gonna get the ball a lot. And be able to make the right reads out of pick-and-rolls. He also wants me to work on jump shots, corner threes, I mean we’ve really just been working on a lot of different stuff. He wants me to play everywhere on the court.

VS: He wants you to run pick-and-rolls as a rookie?

Knox: Yeah. He wants me to be able to come off pick-and-rolls, make right reads, be able to set picks, be able to roll, pop, play out of that. Pretty much everywhere.

VS: What does “run everyday” entail for you, exactly?

Knox: We play pickup, so that’s getting up and down, and then after that we run tens, which is [Kevin uncoils his index finger and points from one side of the room to the other while counting down from ten]. We run those two or three times a day in less than a minute. It’s not really a full-out sprint, but it’s a sprint. And then we had a conditioning test which was yesterday, and we had to run five of them. In under a minute. Two-minute break in between. Everybody had to do it. That’s part of Fitz’s new plan, new conditioning test, so everyone on the team was there yesterday. Whoever didn’t pass it has to do it again in training camp. But I passed, so. It was crazy. I was tired, but it helped a lot because now I’m in shape.

Advertisement

VS: How often do you and Coach Fizdale speak?

Knox: We text every now and then. He just checks up on me. I see him a lot at the practice facility, walking around. He’s always talking to me. He’s a player’s coach so he’s always around talking to the players, asking how they’re doing. Just communicating with them, that’s how you bond and get closer.

VS: What sort of things does he say to you?

Knox: Asking how I’m doing. He texted me yesterday to ask how I did on the conditioning test. Stuff like that. What I’m eating. He’s big on nutrition. He’s big on breathing. He loves breathing. To be able to breathe the right way, and all this other stuff.

VS: Breathing?

Knox: He’s saying something about, I don’t know what this part right here is called [Knox points at the center of his chest], but he’s telling us yesterday to breathe through that. It just helps you out a lot when you’re in situations, whether you’re tired or nervous or have so much going on. You just take a couple minutes just to breathe. He’s really big on that. It’s kind of weird to explain it, though.

VS: Jimmy Butler recently demanded a trade out of Minnesota and, for now, the Knicks are reportedly one of three teams he'd be happy getting dealt to. At the same time, about a week ago, Steve Mills and Scott Perry said they wouldn’t surrender young assets and draft picks (i.e. yourself) in order to fast track the organization's rebuild. How does that make you feel, knowing the front office has confidence in you and your development?

Advertisement

Knox: I mean, it’s great. I feel like it’s a great opportunity right now. They love me. The city loves me. The management team loves me. I feel like it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and prove myself, establish myself. The other young guys, Mitch, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Trier, some of the other young guys they have, we have a lot of young people on our team so just being able to know that your management team has trust in you, confidence in you, and loyalty to you, it’s a great feeling to have.

VS: Have Mills or Perry reiterated to you what they’ve told the public, basically that they want to slow-go this process and keep you around for the long haul?

Knox: Not really. We don’t really talk about that. I saw Scott Perry and Steve Mills the other day. They were just asking me how I’m doing, just a normal conversation. But we don’t really talk about long-term deals or nothing like that. We’re just talking about basketball, the season that’s coming up, how was the summer, families, and stuff like that.

VS: What expectations do you have for yourself heading into this season?

Knox: I just want to help my team as much as possible. I feel like that’s something in New York they haven’t seen in a while. I want to come out and win as many games as possible, develop as a player, get better each year. Work on my leadership. That’s something Fizdale can help me do. Expand my game, stuff like that. Of course the ultimate goal is to make the playoffs, win rookie of the year, stuff I’m really looking forward to.

Advertisement

VS: And expectations for the team?

Knox: Win games, get better as a team, maybe next year we get somebody in free agency, you never know. Bond together throughout the year. We’re gonna go through some ups and downs, but just being able to communicate, show leadership, get everyone on the same page, and grow closer and closer as the year goes on.

VS: Traditionally, not a lot is expected from rookies who, understandably, need a bit of an adjustment period before they really start affecting NBA games. When you look at what happened last year, with guys like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and Ben Simmons pushing back against that narrative, does it give you more confidence coming in that you can handle yourself and exceed typical anticipation for a first-year player?

Knox: It just shows that right now rookies are able to dominate the league, and with everyone that’s in the league now, the league is so young and getting better and better. It’s so versatile, with guys playing every position. So for me to see Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, all those guys, the kid from the Chicago Bulls, Lauri Markkanen. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the league who’re establishing themselves. They’re just paving the way for us young guys coming in now and guys down the line coming into the league. They’re giving us that boost to show that rookies can come in the league and average 15-20 points and be a big-time player. That just gives me confidence.

Advertisement

VS: In NBA.com’s annual rookie survey, you tied with Luka Doncic for third most likely to win Rookie of the Year, tied with Jerome Robinson for most likely to have the best career, and received a few votes for best shooter, too. You were the ninth pick. What was your reaction when you first saw all that?

Knox: It was pretty cool for a lot of people to think you’re gonna have a great career. That’s pretty good. And then being third for Rookie of the Year and the season hasn’t even started yet. So I’ve got 82 games to prove myself and develop as the year goes on.

VS: Who did you vote for, for ROY?

Knox: I think I said Collin [Sexton]. I think I said Collin. No…Wendell [Carter Jr.]? I don’t know, I forgot to be honest. I don’t remember none of the categories. I think I said Wendell for one, Collin for one. I don’t remember. I don’t remember the categories to be honest.

VS: What type of advice have veterans on the Knicks given you this summer?

Knox: Tim Hardaway took me and Alonzo Trier out to dinner on Tuesday. We went out in SoHo, ate dinner, and chopped it up. We talked New York City. The fashion. The people out here. Road trips. It was good to take me out to eat and let me ask him anything I wanted to ask. There’s a lot of guys, though. Lance Thomas is a great leader on the team.

VS: Which player are you most excited about going up against?

Knox: Kevin Durant. That’s my favorite player. I’ve watched him and studied him a lot. That’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be a great experience. I’m gonna try and go at him, try and compete. He’s a great guy.

VS: Did you have a favorite team growing up?

Knox: No, not really. I just followed Kevin Durant wherever he went.

VS: So you've been watching a ton of Golden State Warriors?

Knox: Oh yeah. Every time they’re on TV I watched them. It’s gonna be tough. Fizdale already came out and said he’s gonna put me on the best player on the other team so I’m gonna learn a lot. I’m gonna get kicked around a little bit. Some games we’re gonna win and some games we’re gonna lose. Somebody might drop 50 on me—hopefully not—but I’m a rookie. It’s a learning experience. So I’m glad. If Coach Fizdale wants to do that, I’m gonna learn.

VS: How did you get involved with Subway?

Knox: I just basically partnered with them to launch the new Chipotle Cheesesteak sandwich. Just kind of showing people the new sandwiches. You’ve got the firebird wraps, the chipotle cheesesteak wrap, the jalapeño wrap, so just helping them launch different sandwiches and new different ways you can create sandwiches. Growing up, my AAU team, in-between games we’d go to Subway, grab something light. When you’re a kid you’d just go in there and order whatever you want. It’d be the easiest thing for the coaches. That was fire.