Despite lacking All-Stars, the Knicks wormed their way into All-Star Weekend, with Kevin Knox putting together a strong performance in the Rising Stars game, Dennis Smith Jr. disappointing during the Dunk Contest, and a couple of soon-to-be free agents palling around as if they were planning to join the same team next season or something.
The weekend’s festivities kicked off with the Rising Stars game on Friday, and Knox — playing as a replacement for the injured Lonzo Ball — put forth a fine effort. Much like over the summer, when the 19-year-old, 6’9” forward out of Kentucky excelled in Summer League amongst a group of young players with similar levels of experience, Knox looked right at home against fellow rookies and a selection of sophomores.
He posted 11 points on 5-9 shooting (1-3 from three), 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 16 minutes of action, casually hammering home three slam dunks and showcasing an impressive touch when tapping in an attempted alley oop thrown by Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young.
Here, see for yourself:
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton gave Knox a B- for his efforts, which is above average and therefore a good enough grade to be proud of. We’ll put his highlights on the refrigerator.
Perhaps most importantly, Knox got some experience playing for a winner, with Team USA toasting Team World to the tune of 161-144. Considering the Knicks are 11-47 and count a single three-game winning streak in November as the only time they’ve strung together two or more consecutive victories this season, it’s nice to know Knox has technically won two straight heading into the second half of the year.
If New York was riding high after Knox represented the Knicks well on Friday, the positive vibes deflated a bit on Saturday, when Smith Jr. made it to the final round of the Dunk Contest but ultimately fell to Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo, who dunked over Shaq and was the rightful victor.
Smith Jr. is a great dunker who regularly leaps through the air like he’s wearing a jetpack, but his tank wasn’t quite full during the Dunk Contest. While he wound up throwing down some impressive jams, most of them necessitated numerous attempts, so by the time he completed them we already knew exactly what was coming.
That doesn’t take away from the degree of difficulty, and it’s wonderful to have a guy who can jump high enough to get stuff out of the very topmost kitchen cabinets. But there’s a reason Vince Carter’s performance in the 2000 Dunk Contest will forever be remembered as the GOAT. It’s because he not only entertained, but nailed every dunk on the first try.
Meanwhile, on what may have been Smith Jr.’s finest moment of the night, the newest ‘Bocker chose to take off his Knicks jersey in order to don a J. Cole high school basketball jersey as he soared over the seated rapper for a slam. You see, Smith Jr. and J. Cole are close personal friends, they’re in a group text and everything. Seeing as they are both from North Carolina and the All-Star game was in Charlotte this year, it’s not hard to understand the reasoning behind the jersey decision. Still, it’s too bad that the best photo of the night featuring Smith Jr. doesn’t include much evidence that he plays for the Knicks.
Check out all the dunks Smith Jr. completed in this video, which doesn’t include his missed attempts, so it’ll seem like he had a flawless performance. If you’re wondering why the video only includes three dunks even though Smith Jr. had four chances to dunk, it’s because he was unable to finish one and received a score of 35 for it.
Although the Knicks did not have any actual All-Stars this year, the speculation regarding which All-Stars the team will try to land in free agency was in full force. Anthony Davis said some good things about the Knicks before later saying that every team besides the New Orleans Pelicans is on the list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to, but it was, of course, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who most intrigued the media and fanbase.
While Durant continued to seem perturbed that people are interested in whether he’s going to leave the Golden State Warriors, seeing as he keeps signing one-year deals instead of locking in for the long term, he displayed no dismay when hanging around with the current Boston Celtics point guard, who is also set to hit free agency this summer.
KD and Kyrie were spotted joyously gallivanting during some warm-ups, playing a friendly facsimile of one-on-one.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving playing 1-on-1... sort of pic.twitter.com/rTlupoq8td— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 16, 2019
Overall, the duo, both on Team LeBron, just looked like they were having fun together.
Perhaps next season, they’ll be teammates. In order for that to happen, however a team would need to have enough cap space to sign two max contracts. Hey, the Knicks just happen to have that amount of cap space ever since they traded ol’ whatshisname! Let’s not get too excited, but let’s also start photoshopping KD and Kyrie into Knicks jerseys.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming: Tankfest 2019, the Knicks edition.