Brandon Knight didn’t sleep much after receiving a call from the Pistons telling him he’d been traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for (among other pieces) Brandon Jennings, who, like Knight, held down the point. It was his second season in the NBA. He’d started 135 games since Detroit took him with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and he was considered the franchise’s point guard of the future, but, like many in the Pistons organization since the team bottomed following the 2008 season, Knight was pawned off in search of quick-fix solutions to myriad problems.
Three months into the 2014-15 NBA season—his second as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Knight is showing progressions virtually everywhere: he’s on pace to obliterate career highs in points, assists, rebounds, minutes played, usage rate, player efficiency rating, win shares per 48 minutes, free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage.
On a sprightly latent roster teeming with up-and-comings and a new head coach in Jason Kidd, the 23-year-old point guard has been tasked with leading his forest green squad toward relevancy. Had the Philadelphia 76ers not nearly set an NBA losing-streak record, more would’ve remembered that the Bucks were, in fact, the worst team in the League a season ago—winning just 15 games. Knight, like the Bucks, is soaring.
As of December 20, he was one of just 17 players in the League to generate more 2,800 touches. He also plays the most minutes per game of anyone on the Bucks (32.1) and has run more than 89 miles on the hardwood in games this season.
More importantly, he’s helping Milwaukeeans believe in their basketball team again. Knight was kind enough to give SLAM some of his time.
SLAM: You’ve been killing it this season so far. What feels different this year? Is it just experience, is it the group of guys you’re playing with, or is it the new coaching paradigm?
Brandon Knight: It’s a combination of everything. The new culture that we are building in Milwaukee, the coaching staff, experience, hard work from summer training and better chemistry with my teammates. With those things, I have been able to take my game to the next level.
SLAM: You’re averaging a career-high figure in assists so far. Do you feel like you’re gelling with the team more this season, and do you think the faster level of pace the team plays with is helping your facilitation numbers?
BK: I believe that experience along with growing mentally in various aspects of the game have helped assist numbers. Also, [I’m] trying to have a better understanding of teammates: when they like the ball and when and where they are most successful on the court.
SLAM: What’s Jason Kidd like?
BK: Jason Kidd is a player’s coach. [He] has a great mind for the game and is an elite competitor, even as a coach, and does his best to instill that in our team.
SLAM: What had you heard about him prior to him being your head coach? Did you guys have a relationship prior to him joining the Bucks?
BK: My relationship with him prior to joining [the] Bucks was merely playing against him for two years before he retired and became a coach.
SLAM: Did you ever guard him when he was playing and you were in Detroit and he was in Dallas? Do you remember who had the better game? Did you cross him up or anything memorable?
BK: I remember playing him when I was in Detroit and he was in NY, but nothing too memorable happened that I can think of.
SLAM: What’s your relationship like with Kidd now? Do you feel like he’s more relatable given that he was a point guard when he was playing?
BK: We have a good relationship where we communicate about all aspects of the game. He is easy to relate to because he played the game and was very good at it. Also, [he is a] great thinker of the game and understands what the players are going through.
SLAM: What does Kidd bring to head coaching that the other coaches you’ve had didn’t or brought less of?
BK: He brings the ability to be able to relate and touch all players on the roster.
SLAM: What point guards did you look up to growing up? How does your game model after them, if at all?
BK: Point guards I looked up to growing up were Tim Hardaway and Steve Nash. I wouldn’t say my game models after them, but I have definitely taken little things that they do that worked and added them to my own game.
SLAM: Did you ever think growing up that you’d be a professional basketball player? Was there a moment when you knew there was going to be an opportunity if you wanted to take it?
BK: I always wanted to be a professional, but I didn’t know it would happen for sure. Nothing in life is concrete until it happens. But I knew I had a chance when I was ranked No. 1 in the country in high school.
SLAM: What’s the most challenging part of moving teams? Detroit and Milwaukee aren’t too far from one another, but it’s still uprooting your life and moving it elsewhere.
BK: Most challenging part of moving teams would be just completely starting over and building and forming completely new relationships.
SLAM: Does your family live where you play or did they stay in Florida and just come see you when they can?
BK: They stay in Florida and just come see me when they have the time to do so.
SLAM: Do you take vacations or relax at all following the season? What does relaxing mean to you? Is it watching TV, swimming, reading?
BK: Relaxing to me means chilling at home watching TV, maybe bowling. Doing a little reading here and there. But I’m big on TV shows: Scandal, Homeland, How to Get Away With Murder, Blacklist—shows like that.
SLAM: What’s the worst part of being a professional athlete? The pressure? Talking to the media? Answering interview questions like these?
BK: I would say a negative part is you don’t have control over how you are portrayed or what’s said about you in the media. Most people don’t understand that just because it is written, doesn’t mean that it is true, and many people take what they read as facts and nothing else.
SLAM: What was your favorite class subject growing up? What’s your favorite book and movie?
BK: My favorite class growing up was any kind of math because it was concrete and normally one correct answer. Favorite book is Outliers and favorite movie is The Dark Knight.
SLAM: Your website says you just found out one day that you couldn’t differentiate between hot and cold water with your right hand? Did that just happen randomly or had it been like that for a while? How did you get through that experience?
BK: Just through praying I was able to stay calm about the situation.
SLAM: Was that the scariest moment of your life?
BK: I had faith that I would be OK. It was just a minor obstacle.
SLAM: Did you really just come back and lead your team to a state title, like a narrative you’d find in a Disney movie?
BK: I don’t remember how many games I missed, but I know I missed playing the game, so when I came back I had such a hunger to play that I was able to use that hunger to lift my team to a state title.
SLAM: What do you think being an only child taught you growing up? Did you feel like you had to be self-dependent?
BK: I think it just helped me to be more of a hard worker and even more of a perfectionist.
SLAM: How much would I have to pay you to bring back the Omarion-circa-2000 hairdo?
BK: You couldn’t pay me enough to bring that back! I don’t think there is a price!
SLAM: Who’s your least favorite player to guard in the League and why?
BK: There isn’t really anyone that I don’t like guarding or care to guard.
SLAM: You’ve gotten into scuffles with Nate Robinson, Metta World Peace, etc. Does that stuff stick with you, or do you shrug it off and act like it never happened the next time you match up with those guys?
BK: It’s part of the game and happens too often and will continue to happen, so no need in holding on to it.
SLAM: What hurt more, getting your nose broken by Greg Monroe or Russell Westbrook throwing the ball off your groin when you were in Detroit?
BK: Getting my nose broken, happened to me twice.
SLAM: You’re one of three juniors to ever win Gatorade National Boys Player of the Year. What did it mean to you at the time to be so successful that early on?
BK: It meant a lot then and still means a lot now. It just let me know that if I can continue to work hard and trust God, I can accomplish a lot of things through the game of basketball.
SLAM: What do you hope to get out of this season? Are you chasing an All-Star Game appearance, a title?
BK: I hope that this season our team continues to grow and get better. I hope that we can make a strong playoff push and surprise some teams and see where we end up at. I also hope to be an All-Star. I know I have put the time and effort in to be one. Now I just have to continue to show it on the court and help our team be as successful as we can.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Vice, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He’s currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer. Let him know on Twitter (@JPlanos) how baseless his work is.