LAS VEGAS — Burgeoning lottery pick Kevin Knox loves to play and has taken Thomas & Mack Center by storm. But he also loves to watch.
When the Knicks are finished with their summer-league games, the 6-foot-9 forward can be seen afterward in the stands — and out of the scorching Las Vegas sun.
Knox was disappointed Tuesday night after a 29-point outing against the Lakers because it was the last game of the card, and he had to head back to the team hotel.
“Every time we play early, I come back and watch all the games,” Knox said. “I love watching basketball. You can learn from watching others play and I have friends on other teams. It’s who I am. I like to watch college basketball, high school — don’t matter who it is.”
If Knox seems too good to be true, well, it is only July. Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne told The Post the 18-year-old is a lot different than most of his recruits — a doe-eyed teenager younger than his years who has led a pristine and sheltered life.
Through three games, Knox is averaging 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds after scoring 15.6 points at Kentucky. In looking like the Knicks’ starting small forward come October, Knox exploded for his summer-league high 29 against the Lakers, even though he’s on top of everyone’s scouting report now. The Knicks resume summer-league action Thursday against Boston.
Lakers summer-league coach Miles Simon pulled out the stops on Knox, but could only hold him down so long. After Knox drove the ball for dunks or drew fouls in the first two games, this time he caught fire from the 3-point arc, draining 5-of-7 in leading the Knicks from 25 points down into a tie after three quarters.
“Coach Miles did a great job tonight defending me,” Knox said. “They made passes hard for me, pick-and-rolls they were really switching on me and I couldn’t get past people. They were real physical. They had a good scouting report. It’s going to get harder moving forward for me. A lot of people will see how our offense is and take me away from the top of the key. I’m looking forward to it, getting to practice and see how we adjust.”
Knicks GM Scott Perry tried to temper the runaway expectations making the Vegas rounds that Knox is headed to All-Star status sooner than later. Perry said the players in October are different than the ones in July. And Knox knows not to get ahead of himself.
“It’s going to be hard to do this in the NBA [as a rookie],” Knox said. “As Coach [Keith] Smart says in the locker room, it’s hard to be in the NBA. I’m playing well right now. I hope I can carry it over. It’s a different system playing against different people. It’s going to be little tougher, but I’ll stay in the gym and keep getting better and learn form the older guys and veterans.”
Knox had made just 3-of-13 3-point attempts entering the Lakers game. He admitted the adjustment from the college 3-point arc is real.
“It felt good,” Knox said. “I was struggling a bit. I was 5-for-7. I thought I shot pretty well tonight. I got extra shots in walk-through. I want to keep shooting. That’s what the coaches really want from me, to take that shot. I want to show my full arsenal in summer league and get ready for the season.”
While he has a nice stroke, his 3-point percentage at Kentucky was an average 34.1 percent.
“It’s a little bit further back,” Knox said. “You got to put more legs. Most rookies coming in, they’re a little short on the 3-point line because it’s a little further back. But once you adjust to it, you’ll be fine. There’s a lot of great rookies shooting the ball really well.”
Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has attended the past two games and has connected with Knox.
“He’s a great shooting guard, I’ve talked to him a lot and he gives a lot of tips,” Knox said. “He’s a great guy to talk to, gives me things to work on. He talked to me during the game on the sidelines with some tips, stay aggressive and use the lower body when they’re brushing up on me. It’s going to be fun to finally work out with him at practice. We’ll go really well together.”
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