Knox drawing comparisons with emerging Celtics star he’s set to face

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Even before Kevin Knox fell to the Knicks and became the ninth overall pick, his coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, predicted several teams ultimately would regret passing on the youngest player in this year’s NBA draft.

Calipari easily envisioned a path to stardom for Knox because he believed he had just seen it, following the rookie season of another one-and-done, Jayson Tatum.

“What I saw [with Boston, Tatum] never showed in college,” Calipari said in June. “Now, you have a skilled, long, tough player, who’s a future All-Star. Kevin falls into that same mode right now.”

In Knox’s second game, the lofty comparison became easier to see. In Knox’s third game, it will be impossible to avoid.

After struggling with his shot during the preseason, and making just 4-of-16 shots in the season-opener, the 19-year-old Knicks forward will enter Saturday’s game against the Celtics off his best performance in the pros, scoring 17 points, with six rebounds, in Friday’s 107-105 loss to the Nets at Barclays Center.

Knox, who hit three game-tying baskets in the fourth quarter, made 7-of-14 shots, including 3-of-4 3-pointers, the last of which tied the score with 4:21 to play.

“In the beginning of the game I was nervous,” Knox said. “I’m nervous before all games, but once I hit that first shot, the jitters go away.” “Coach [David Fizdale] had me in late in the game and it shows he has confidence in me.”

If the comparisons with Tatum hadn’t already been made, they eventually would have come as they will face off at least four times a season for what both teams hope to be many years.

Knox is 6-foot-9. Tatum, who played his college ball at Duke, is 6-8. Knox is listed at 215 pounds.

Tatum weighs in at 208. The wingspans are nearly identical, as are their stats from their lone seasons at powerhouse college programs.

When Knox joined the Knicks, his new coach didn’t want to set Tatum’s phenomenal debut season as the expectation, but Fizdale also couldn’t help comparing the physically-similar and versatile small forwards.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson had a better compliment for Knox, than a direct comparison.

“When I watch him play, he seems like a guy that’s been in the league for eight years,” said Atkinson, who faced Knox for the third time in three weeks. “He just seems like a pro. He’s got a nice calm to his game, he’s skilled, he’s big, obviously getting used to the pace of a game, but it looks like coach Fizdale is giving him the green light … and building his confidence. He’s gonna be a good player in this league for a while.”

Exactly how good?

“[He’s] 19, baby,” Fizdale said Friday. “Blank page.”

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