Kevin Knox walked briskly and silently out of the locker room late Wednesday as reporters were let in. Following the 114-96 Garden loss to the Wizards in the Knicks’ finale before All-Star Weekend, Knox wasn’t of a mind to see if anyone wanted to talk to him.
It was a departure from last February, when Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. left the locker room in Atlanta and took a short car ride with team staffers to Charlotte, N.C. Knox was participating in the Rising Stars Challenge, Smith in the dunk contest.
Knox and Smith have become the shining emblems of a major issue at hand: Is Knicks interim coach Mike Miller going to give more minutes to the young lottery picks after the All-Star break, even if their play is subpar?
Miller usually doesn’t show negative emotion, but he appeared agitated when asked for a second time Wednesday night whether he needs to play veterans less and youngsters more.
Against Washington, Knox, their 2018 lottery pick, played 10 minutes and barely touched the ball, making his lone shot, continuing his season of regression.
Smith, a 2017 lottery pick obtained in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, was a disaster — four turnovers in six minutes.
Miller’s angry glare at the questioner spoke volumes. Miller’s take — one he has repeated — is player development can take place without dishing out major minutes. Miller, who is trying to save his job with an improved record, said developing players and attempting to win are not mutually exclusive.
No tank you.
Miller’s stance may soon become irrelevant. Ownership and management essentially threw in the towel on the season last week when they fired president Steve Mills and traded the team’s best player, Marcus Morris, for draft picks. (Mills wanted to keep Morris).
Acting president Scott Perry has not ordered any edict to start Knox or Smith. That may not be the case when agent-turned-incoming president Leon Rose officially takes over. Miller said they haven’t spoken.
“As we approach this, this is all about development,’’ Miller said Wednesday. “That will never change. It’s about how these guys get better just if they get 10 more minutes in a game. There are a lot of things that go into the development to make these guys better. Just having minutes isn’t the end all. I think there are other ways and other factors.’’
It’s a slippery slope as many of their prospects are underperforming. Miller is hell-bent on rolling with players who are effective. Frank Ntilikina has been OK but being is outperformed by starting point guard Elfrid Payton, who scored 19 points with five steals and nine assists Wednesday.
“They certainly need experience,” Miller said. “Experience is maybe the best teacher at times. They are getting experience as they go through it. We are going to continue every day to work on development and get guys better and move forward. As we do that, it puts us in a position where you have a chance to win games, too.” If you say we’re focused on development that doesn’t mean you aren’t trying to win games.”
Second-year center Mitchell Robinson, and rookie starting shooting guard RJ Barrett are getting their minutes.
Robinson has shown some progress from his rookie year but hasn’t had the breakthrough of adding a low-post, mid-range or 3-point game. Barrett is headed to the Rising Stars partly because he’s on the World Team as a Canadian.
The third pick of the draft was left off this week’s top-10 list of the Rookie Challenge. Barrett’s all-important effective field-goal percentage (an analytic that puts extra weight on 3-point shots) is just 43 percent, ranking him a pitiful 303rd in the NBA.
Robinson won’t be going to the Rising Stars but is fouling less, protecting the rim with swagger even if he’s not always involved offensively.
“It was a roller coaster,’’ Robinson said of his season to date. “I had some good games, had terrible games. I have to find a way to [be] consistent through the whole thing.’’
Knicks new branding consultant Steve Stoute, in remarks for which he got reprimanded by team brass, said the club needs a new coaching staff to “help develop those younger players. Ultimately getting a coach in there and a coaching staff that’s going to help develop a team. That’s what I expect to happen.’’
Is it any wonder Miller is sensitive to the notion of not doing enough for the prospects even as his record, 13-20, is a lot stronger than David Fizdale’s (4-18).
The Knicks don’t play against until next Friday versus Indiana, leaving Miller time to further contemplate the issue.
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