School of hard Knox for Kevin

Fiz said rookie will start opener and learn on the fly

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY STE­FAN BONDY

When David Fiz­dale an­nounced ev­ery start­ing po­si­tion was up for grabs, ap­par­ently the coach didn’t mean Kevin Knox’s.

Fiz­dale ac­knowl­edged that Knox did not earn the start­ing small for­ward spot but will be there any­way in the reg­u­larsea­son opener, an in­di­ca­tion of how much the fran­chise is in­vested in its No. 9 over­all draft pick.

“No (he didn’t earn it), he’s been up and down,” Fiz­dale said. “I think he’s shown the abil­ity to start in the first two (pre­sea­son) games with the dou­ble-dou­bles. And the last three, he stunk.

“But for that po­si­tion and what we’re try­ing to grow there I think he’s what we want to put in that spot and just let him go through the hell of it and get beat up and have some suc­cess, and all of that stuff.”

Knox pro­duced his third straight aw­ful per­for­mance in Fri­day’s 113-107 loss to the Nets, fin­ish­ing with three points, two turnovers and five fouls in 12 min­utes. In the last three pre­sea­son games, Knox shot 9-for-34 with 12 turnovers. He has missed 13 of his last 14 3-point at­tempts.

Still, Fiz­dale has him pen­ciled in as the starter for open­ing night Wednesday against the Hawks.

“He’s got to go through it. This year is ex­actly for this,” Fiz­dale said. “I said it in the press con­fer­ence, he’s got to take his lumps. That’s part of the deal. You’re a 19year-old com­ing in and you jump into a man’s league and you re­ally got to go through that growth process.

“Strug­gles are a part of it. I think he’ll han­dle it fine. He’ll keep get­ting in the gym, get­ting the work done. I need to do more to help him. But his fo­cus and his at­ten­tion is in the right place and I think he’ll pull out of this. But this is ex­pected. Who knows when slumps hit rook­ies? Some­times they hit them early, some­times they hit them right af­ter Christ­mas. Some­times it’s both. All of this is good ex­pe­ri­ence for him no mat­ter what.”

Knox agreed with his coach.

“Ba­si­cally me and Fiz have the same men­tal­ity. This is all learn­ing for me,” the rookie said. “Like he says all the time, I’m go­ing to get my butt kicked a lot. It’s part of my rookie year. I’m go­ing to have a lot of ups and downs. It shows how much con­fi­dence he has in me keep­ing me in the start­ing lineup and the more I get used to play­ing in the sys­tem, play­ing on this stage – Madi­son Square Gar­den, New York – I’ll get bet­ter.” WHAT’S THE POINT?

With the reg­u­lar sea­son around the cor­ner, the Knicks’ start­ing point guard re­mains an open bat­tle.

David Fiz­dale started four dif­fer­ent point guards in five pre­sea­son games – in­clud­ing Ron Baker in the fi­nale Fri­day against the Nets – but no­body has seized the mo­ment.

“I am def­i­nitely un­de­cided go­ing into the first game,” Fiz­dale said. “I don’t feel a dead­line for game one like ev­ery­body else does. We’re not the War­riors or Hous­ton or some­body where we have to know who we are, a set ro­ta­tion, and get guys in their roles right away.

“We’ve still got a lot to fig­ure out. We’ve still got a lot of guys we’re eval­u­at­ing, fig­ur­ing out how they fit into the puz­zle. So this thing is some­thing — like I said be­fore, it could change. Go­ing into it I hon­estly don’t know right now who is the start­ing point guard.”

Trey Burke had the in­side track at the po­si­tion but un­der­whelmed when he started the first two pre­sea­son games. Fiz­dale hinted that con­di­tion­ing was an is­sue as the Knicks try to play at a quicker pace.

“I think for him and for ev­ery guy it’s an ad­just­ment to how fast we are try­ing to play, how we are try­ing to de­fend, the ac­tiv­ity and the ef­fort that it took to pick up 94 feet,” Fiz­dale said. “I think you saw that with him a lot. It’s a dif­fer­ent level of con­di­tion­ing you have to have to do both ends of the floor that way and ob­vi­ously while you’re do­ing that and learn­ing a whole new sys­tem, there are go­ing to be some ad­just­ments.”

Em­manuel Mu­diay and Frank Nti­lik­ina also started pre­sea­son games at point guard.

De­spite the fluid ap­proach, Fiz­dale is set on the other four starters so long as they’re healthy – Tim Har­d­away Jr. at shoot­ing guard, Knox at small for­ward, Lance Thomas at power for­ward and Enes Kan­ter at cen­ter. HAR­D­AWAY WILL PLAY

Har­d­away as­sured he’ll play in the reg­u­lar sea­son opener de­spite sprain­ing his left wrist in the first half Fri­day. X-rays were neg­a­tive. “I am play­ing (Wednesday against the Hawks) no mat­ter what,” he said.

Kevin Knox will be in start­ing lineup Wednesday for sea­son opener vs. Hawks even though both he and David Fiz­dale say he has a lot to learn. AP

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