Kevin Knox’s next Knicks goal as he grinds away far from the spotlight

PHILADELPHIA — As Knicks rookie RJ Barrett held court before a throng of media types Wednesday morning at Wells Fargo Center, Kevin Knox sat alone a few seats away.

It’s been that way all season.

The lottery-pick media glare no longer is hitting Knox in his second campaign after being the ninth pick in the 2018 draft. The 20-year-old Knox doesn’t start like Barrett, and hasn’t put up as gaudy numbers.

Knox doesn’t mind less attention, but he thinks that will change some time this season when he envisions being put back into the starting lineup.

“One-hundred percent,’’ Knox told The Post in a rare interview. “That’s what I’m working for every day. To become a starter. I’ll keep putting in the work and have the right mentality so when my time does comes, I’m ready for it.”

Veteran Marcus Morris is now the starting small forward, but Knox is no less important to the Knicks’ future success than is Barrett, the third pick in June’s draft. Last season, Knox didn’t inherit the starting job full-time until mid-December.

Off to a modest beginning to 2019-20, Knox is shooting better from the 3-point line (38.9 percent) and showing occasional bursts of brilliance in transition. But he’s never taken over a game in bust-out fashion through 14 contests entering Wednesday’s showdown in Philly.

RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox
RJ Barrett and Kevin KnoxNBAE via Getty Images

He’s averaging 9.1 points on 39 percent shooting overall with 3.1 rebounds in 22 minutes. He hasn’t shown the swagger that he often displayed during his up-and-down rookie campaign.

And unlike Barrett’s, Knox’s defense still is a work in progress.

Against the Cavaliers on Monday, Knicks coach David Fizdzle yanked Knox early in the second quarter after he missed his first three shots and put in Wayne Ellington, who had recently been out of the rotation. Knox finished the night 2-of-10 for six points in 19:35.

“I went to the bench knowing I’d probably come back in,’’ Knox said. “Fiz does a really good job trying to play everyone. When I came out, I had a good mentality, knowing I’d go back in and make the right plays.’’

Fizdale said Knox has shown progress as a second-year man though the numbers aren’t showing it much.

“He’s flying below the radar,’’ Fizdale said. “He’s just doing his job. And slowly but surely he’s getting better and better and more efficient. Really getting a grasp of what the league is. He’s doing better things defensively. He’s pursuing more rebounds, blocking more shots. A lot of the attention is going to RJ. But Kevin is steadily moving along. I’m really happy the way he’s progressing.’’

With the Knicks’ free-agency future a major uncertainty, much of the franchise’s hopes rest on Knox and Barrett emerging as All-Stars one day.

“I think I’ve been pretty good,’’ Knox told The Post. “I feel I’m giving a good spark and energy to the team and we’ve played a lot better the last few games. I think we’re in a good place right now.’’

There’s enough flashes to predict Knox will become a productive scorer in the league, but his defense is still a trouble spot despite Fizdale’s praise.

Kevin Knox
Kevin KnoxAnthony J Causi

“I’m still improving,’’ Knox said. “Just getting stronger, moving my feet more. But I think I’m in better spots than I was last year. And getting to the right spots defensively, I still have to work better on moving my feet and able to contest more shots and get more blocks.’’

Offensively, he’s been less aggressive tearing to the rim as a sophomore.

“I still want to build a halfcourt (game) where I’m getting to the rack and finishing at the basket a little more and working on my finishes,’’ Knox said.

Let Barrett get all the attention and headlines, as Knox slowly will keep improving.

“I’m fine,’’ Knox said. “I’m not worried about media. I go out and worry about my team and myself and my play – that it’s enough to help the team out as much as possible. I don’t really care about the media and getting all the attention like (last season). I go out there and play my game.’’

Fizdale thinks maybe too much was on Knox’s plate as a rookie.

“It’s a tough place to be thrown right into the mix,’’ Fizdale said. “Last year was not a good team. We had to take our lumps. And he was the guy getting all of the attention. It was a lot for a 19-year-old.’’

The former Kentucky forward says Barrett is handling the scrutiny with aplomb.

“I think he’s doing a good job,’’ Knox said. “Credit to (Knicks public relations men) Derek (Lapinski) and Gregg (Schwartz). They do a good job prepping us for the media, so he’s doing a really good job handling it.’’

For more on the Knicks, listen to the latest episode of the “Big Apple Buckets” podcast:

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