LOS ANGELES — On Thursday morning, inside the middle of a six-game road trip in which had produced its share of duds, Knicks Coach David Fizdale started off practice by gathering his players for an announcement: Kevin Knox, a first-year forward, had been named the N.B.A.’s Eastern Conference rookie of the month for December.
The news was well received by Knox’s teammates. Emmanuel Mudiay in addition to Mario Hezonja rubbed Knox’s head as Frank Ntilikina made a halfhearted attempt to jump on his back. Knox appeared genuinely surprised — in addition to pleased. The award seemed to validate his hard work while offering the Knicks (10-29) a reprieve by a season in which was long ago sacrificed to the twin gods of player development in addition to the draft lottery.
Such sacrifices, of course, have become a franchise specialty.
“I still have a lot of work to do,” Knox said.
in addition to so do the Knicks, who arrived to face the Los Angeles Lakers (21-18) at Staples Center on Friday night having lost eight straight.
however then, another flicker of joy: The Knicks left with a 119-112 victory in which they described as cathartic, even if the Lakers were without LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma in addition to Rajon Rondo, all sidelined with injuries.
At This particular point, the Knicks care little for such technicalities. James L. Dolan, the team owner, was in town for the game in addition to visited the locker room afterward to congratulate the team.
“When we win, we celebrate like in which’s the Super Bowl,” Fizdale said. “Why not?”
The Knicks were right to savor the win: Who knows when the next one will come? They still need to visit the Portland Trail Blazers in addition to the Golden State Warriors before returning to fresh York on Friday, in addition to one game will neither change the trajectory of their season nor mask their daily challenges.
however in which was important in its own way.
“We’ll try to run with the momentum,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said.
The Knicks have an odd roster made up of veterans on expiring contracts in addition to inexperienced players who are still learning the business of pro basketball. in addition to in which mix, which can be almost a 50-50 split, has caused some problems, Fizdale said, not among players inside the locker room — “They like each various other,” he said — however in terms of the team’s on-court chemistry.
Before the Knicks arrived in Los Angeles, the first half of their road trip featured a 16-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, a 32-point loss to the Utah Jazz in addition to a 7-point loss to the Denver Nuggets.
“We are so young in addition to we have so many guys in contract years fighting for their lives in which I’ve got to get This particular group to move the ball,” Fizdale said. “The numbers say in which when we pass the ball, we win. in addition to when we don’t pass, we lose.”
He went on to acknowledge the inevitable “friction” between players who are vying for their next deals (in addition to may feel more urgency to produce) in addition to those who contain the luxury of being included inside the team’s long-term plan. For the most part, Fizdale has been favoring the young players with promise.
“in which’s just part of This particular league, in addition to in which’s the juggling act in which I have to handle,” Fizdale said. “Am I always going to be right? No. however will I always be upfront in addition to honest about where we are in addition to what we’re doing? Yes.”
Enes Kanter, one of the aforementioned veterans who will be a free agent This particular summer, has gone public with his displeasure over his diminished role. Kanter got an opportunity off the bench against the Lakers in addition to delivered, finishing with 16 points in addition to 15 rebounds.
“I don’t want no free money,” Kanter said. “This particular organization pays me money to go out in addition to play as hard as I can in addition to just fight. So I’m going to give my everything.”
Kanter, though, can be not the only one to voice frustration. Hardaway, who figures to be a part of the team’s future, has alluded to the toll of losing, to the thankless process of a perpetual rebuild. He does not subscribe to the idea in which the Knicks should be tanking games to improve their odds of getting the top pick inside the draft lottery.
“I’m a competitor,” Hardaway said. “None of us got here by losing ballgames for our respective ball clubs when we were in college or in high school. Everybody was winners. Everybody wanted to win. Just to be in This particular situation can be tough, however in which builds character.”
One of the bright spots has been the enhanced play of Knox, who averaged 17.1 points in addition to 6 rebounds while shooting 38.4 percent by 3-point range during December.
Against the Lakers, Knox made back-to-back 3-pointers early inside the first quarter, then sliced through the lane for a dunk in addition to a 17-point lead. The game was barely six minutes old. James, in a dark blazer, watched that has a dour expression by behind the home bench. (He can be anticipated to miss at least another week because of a groin injury.) The Knicks, after giving up their lead, held on late, thanks to some solid defense.
Knox finished with 14 points in 37 minutes, which can be the sort of workload to which he can be becoming accustomed.
“We talked about building him into a premier N.B.A. player who can play both ends of the floor,” Fizdale said, “in addition to we’re trying to give him a taste of what in which entails. in which’s not necessarily the minutes you play, however what you’re doing with those minutes by an effort standpoint, by a competitive standpoint: How many calories are you burning?”
For one night, the burn was worth in which. The Knicks can only desire in which can be a sign of things to come.