Kenny Payne still believes in Kevin Knox

Kevin Knox has never seen a second year season in Kentucky, so when he saw his second season in the NBA, he crashed.

As a beginner in 2018-19, Knox started 57 games out of 75 for the New York Knicks, averaging 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 28.8 minutes per game, firing 34, 3 percent from a distance of three points. He averaged 15.8 points in the final month of the season.

Last season, however, Knox saw his half-scored average (6.4 ppg) playing less than 18 minutes per game.

Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, who coached Knox in Lexington, still believes in his abilities and hopes that a new Knicks manager can bring out the best in him. Coach David Fizdale was fired in early December leaving interim coach Mike Miller to coach the last 44 games of the season.

“No question, I think a new staff will come in and be able to evaluate what the child is and tell him what to do. He is starting with a clean slate. There is no bias on who he is,” Payne told the New York Post. “He can go out and feel comfortable and do things to help the team win. I think he will come back with a new and different fire. With a little adversity, you can reach greatness. And he has gone through it.”

The overall choice no. 9 in the 2018 NBA Draft showed beginner flashes. Knox was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December, during which he led all the rookies in scoring (17.1 ppg), three pointers (33) and minutes (34.9 mpg) and was second in rebound ( 6.0 rpg).

In a 119-107 defeat against the Charlotte Hornets on December 10, Knox recorded 26 points and 15 rebounds, joining LeBron James in 2003 as only the second teenager in NBA history with a game of 25 points and 15 rebounds before his twentieth birthday. He also joined Patrick Ewing as only the Knicks’ second rookie in the past 40+ years with at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in one game. Knox scored 31 career points in a 108-105 defeat against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 13th.

“I personally don’t think it’s his talent. He has enough talent,” said Payne. “It’s about how he digests the game. How he feels about himself. He’s following the rhythm playing basketball.”

During his lone season in Kentucky, Knox averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game en route to being named SEC Freshman of the Year and an All-SEC selection from the first team.

Payne, who has helped Knox’s coach during a freshman year, says he stayed in touch with his former student.

“I spoke to Kevin a few times, giving words of encouragement,” said Payne. “When I saw him this year, he never felt comfortable. For a child, this is important. I am sure he is reflecting and recognizing where he could have been better. He is an exceptional child and a person of high character “I’m curious to see what next year will bring for him. I think this year will be a good year for him.”