Brandon Knight gains new perspective on life, basketball and future with Suns
PHOENIX – There’s a smile on Brandon Knight’s face. It’s been there all season, though he hasn’t played one single minute or even put on the uniform for a game in 2017-18.
The last two seasons, when he was playing, Knight rarely smiled.
So what’s changed? He’s changed.
For one, Knight has gained a better appreciation for the game he plays and his role in it. Also, Knight has grown up, so to speak. He’s more mature. No longer is Knight that young point guard out of Kentucky, a former top-10 draft pick, ready to take hold of the NBA.
“When you’re a young player, you have a lot of aspirations and goals,” Knight told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Sunday. “Especially when you’re playing, there’s a lot of pressure — it’s just basketball but when you’re a guy that’s driven and you want so much for yourself and you want so much for the team, you see things going a certain way and you hold yourself to a certain standard, right?
“So when it doesn’t go that way, it’s aggravating, and I’m the type of person, sometimes I let that kind of show on my sleeve, but it’s never a negative thing. It’s more so just me wanting to be a perfectionist and me wanting my team to get to a place where we have the potential to be. The past two seasons I don’t think we’ve done that.”
Admittedly, Knight was frustrated with his role with the Suns.
At the time he was acquired, Knight was in the midst of an All-Star caliber season in Milwaukee.
However, when he arrived in Phoenix, he was asked to defer to the team’s other point guard, Eric Bledsoe. And then with the emergence of Devin Booker, he was asked to come off the bench.
Neither made him happy, and the losing didn’t help either.
Now, Knight is in a better place.
The catalyst for all of this, or at least a major factor, was the injury he suffered last summer. Playing in a pro-am game in Florida, Knight suffered a torn ACL in his left knee which required season-ending surgery on Aug. 25.
“When you get hurt and you can’t walk, you start to just appreciate just being able to, to just play,” he said.
Though he couldn’t help his teammates on the court, Knight said he took it upon himself to help them off the court, being a positive voice in the locker room, especially to those — Davon Reed and Alan Williams — who were dealing with long-term injuries like himself.
“Just keep them uplifted,” he said. “So that’s kind of just why I’ve kept a smile on myself, just always being excited about what’s to come. I’m blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be in Phoenix, and I think there’s a lot of positivity that can still come out of the situation. I’m always thankful to be around and to be a part of what’s going on, so I think that’s a big part of why I smile all the time now.”
There’s been a lot of self-reflection, Knight added. He leaned on his family and spent a lot of time praying and reading the bible, all of which allowed Knight to move past his first two seasons with the Suns.
“Trust in God, knowing that everything is going to work out. It always does. I wouldn’t be the person I am if I didn’t have some adversity, and I know that every time I hit adversity, I always end up having something better on the other side,” he said.
“When I went through (the injury) I was kind of like, why? Why, why, why? But, as you can see, I think, and a lot of people will tell you, I think I’ve grown as an individual off the court, which I think will help when it comes to trying to lead guys on the court.
“I always knew I wanted to be a better leader,” Knight continued, “but it was tough when I was so involved in, alright, basketball, basketball, basketball. But when I had time to sit back and really reflect (on) ‘How do you become a leader?’ you have to build those relationships. You have to take time to build certain trust with people, inside and outside the organization.
“Like I said, it just took time for me to realize that and getting hurt kind of made that go faster than it probably would have if I were playing.”
Knight, 26, called the injury a blessing. Though he couldn’t grow as a basketball player while sidelined, he could use this time to grow “in every other aspect” as a person.
As far as the knee goes, Knight is approaching eight months removed from surgery.
“Right now, I’m at a stage where I can pretty much do everything (running, cutting and all basketball-related activity) outside of contact. So, that’s kind of like the last phase of getting to back to playing shape and getting back to being 100 percent,” he said.
Knight credited the Suns’ training staff as being “instrumental” for guiding him throughout the rehab process. With a full summer of conditioning, his goal is to be cleared in time for training camp.
“That would be the perfect scenario,” he said.
And, again, Knight wants to be in Phoenix.
“Absolutely, there’s no question about it,” he said.
Knight wants to be considered part of the core, much like Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren. He wants to be part of the franchise’s turnaround.
With a team that started six different point guards in 2017-18, Knight, who is under contract for two more seasons, could really offer some stability at the position. And even should the Suns draft a young point guard, Knight mentioned he is willing to play whatever role — starter, reserve, mentor — is asked of him.
“It’s all about helping us move forward,” he said. “I just know I’m going to come in and work my tail off and lift guys up, and make guys around me better and just try to take Phoenix where it needs to be — that’s my biggest goal. The fans and the city, they deserve that.”
Knight clearly wants to be remembered for what’s to come rather than what’s already happened.
“There’s been some things that could have went differently but they didn’t. It’s life, it’s pro sports. I pride myself on just being able to be able to say, like, I was part of something that grew into something special,” he said, pointing to the turnaround he was part of in Milwaukee.
“If we can do something like that (here), how spectacular would that be and I would love to be a part of it. We got great management that’s trying to make that happen. We got great young guys that are working hard every day, so I’m just trying to do my part to fit in and make sure that I’m pushing guys along.
“I don’t want to be a vet that didn’t help these younger guys. When these guys get older they can say, who helped and who showed you how to do things the right way, I would definitely love for them to be able to say my name.”