Knicks take baby steps as the NBA’s youngest team

Jaime C. Harris | 11/1/2018, 3:01 p.m. | Updated on 11/1/2018, 3:01 p.m.
On any given night, the Knicks have the youngest team on the floor in the NBA. Rookie Kevin Knox, who ...
Tim Hardaway Jr. has accounted for much of the Knicks' scoring, leading them at 24.4 points per game before facing the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden last night. Bill Moore photo

On any given night, the Knicks have the youngest team on the floor in the NBA. Rookie Kevin Knox, who is expected to return tomorrow night in Dallas versus the Mavericks from a sprained left ankle sustained Oct. 20 in the third game of the season against the Boston Celtics at Madison Garden, turned only 19 this past August.

Fellow rookie Mitchell Robinson, who has been moved into the starting lineup at center by Knicks head coach David Fizdale, replacing Enes Kanter, is a mere 20. So is second-year starting guard Frank Ntilikina. All are part of the Knicks’ plan to establish a solid young core, led by injured All-Star Kristaps Porzingis.

Robinson and Ntilikina were instrumental in the Knicks earning their second win of the season Monday night at the Garden, impressively defeating the Brooklyn Nets 115-96 to improve to 2-5. They looked to build on their strong play last night back at MSG (Wednesday) against the Indiana Pacers.

Robinson, still extremely raw offensively, had 11 points on 5-5 from the field and three rebounds in 15 minutes. Ntilikina, who has showed marked improvement on the offensive end of the floor this season to augment his superior defensive skills, tallied 15 points, five rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes.

“Mitch is kind of tentative sometimes because he’s new,” said Knicks guard/forward Tim Hardaway Jr., the team’s leading scorer at 24.4 points per before facing the Pacers.

Robinson has been working with former Knick Rasheed Wallace, a versatile front court player during his days as a four-time NBA All-Star and key component of the Detroit Pistons’ 2004 championship squad.

“He taught me to be louder with my voice,” said Robinson of Wallace after the Knicks’ victory over the Nets. “I was thinking about everything he was telling me in my head.” Ntilikina is also becoming more instinctive and cerebral in his development.

“He’s growing. He’s starting to see the game a little better,” said Fizdale of Ntilikina on Monday. “I think overall the process of getting him to where he is has helped him because we didn’t just force feed it on him. He got to see how our team functions.”

Fizdale added, “He got to know his teammates. And now he’s understanding how we want to play. Having him on the ball defensively is obviously the best place I could have him defensively because of his versatility.”