New York Knicks: Kevin Knox rightfully eases into action in return

Kevin Knox returned to the New York Knicks Monday night, and he only played a short stint in their loss to the Chicago Bulls.

After seven games away, Kevin Knox returned to the New York Knicks in Monday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls after rehabbing a sprained left ankle. He played just four minutes, all of which came in the second quarter.

Knox’s only made basket happened on a steal and breakaway to the hoop. That was his highlight of the night before head coach David Fizdale rested him through the final two quarters and both overtime periods.

Knox’s status for this game was in question just hours prior to tip-off. However, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, doctors cleared the rookie forward to return. Fizdale had wanted a five-on-five contact scrimmage for him before an official comeback, but opted to listen to the medical staff.

“If the doctors say he’s available and OK, I’m not fighting the doctors,” Fizdale said.

Without desperation this early in the season, there was little reason to force Knox into extended action. He only played one stint, potentially out of necessity, with Tim Hardaway Jr.’s ailing back. Otherwise the leftover playing time went to Allonzo Trier and Mario Hezonja.

This only dipped Knox’s foot in the water, rather than risking aggravation of his ankle ailment. He could test it, see how it feels after the game, rest on Tuesday and play a larger role against the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s also easy to forget that Knox’s Bulls appearance was just his fourth NBA game. He played 23 and 28 minutes, respectively, in the first and second games and just 4 in the third.

Fizdale seemed prepared to give the No. 9 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft a significant role to open the season, but the injury derailed that. He’s still just 19-years-old, too, so there’s no panic button to force him back into that sixth man spot off the bench.

Wednesday’s game should push Knox’s role forward now that he’s healthy. How much remains to be seen, depending on Fizdale’s planned next step to ease him into action.

Look for a double-digit minute total for Knox off the bench. That may not cross 20 minutes, but it’s enough time to make an indent on the game.

As Knox’s time rises, it inevitably means a decrease for someone else. Damyean Dotson replaced him in the rotation, but defensive ability and nine consecutive games of 10-plus points make it difficult to cut into his role. Lance Thomas is another candidate to lose time.

Next: 20 greatest performances at MSG

The road for Knox’s return to the front of the bench may take time and prolongs his eventual first career regular-season start. It’s about development in 2018-19, however, and with the New York Knicks already at 3-8, the emphasis on youth will only increase.