The Knicks, currently a half-game “behind” the Suns for the worst record in the NBA, also sport one of the league’s youngest squads. Eight players on the 15-man roster have yet to turn 24. Rotation staples like Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Mario Hezonja are 19, 20, and 23 respectively. It comes as no surprise, then, that head coach David Fizdale is concerned about a widespread menace to young athletes: the damn Fortnite.
“‘Fortnite,’ that’s my competitor right now,” Fizdale told The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov back in December. “‘Fortnite’ is tougher than the Boston Celtics.” Yesterday, Vorkunov took a more comprehensive look at the Fortnite habits of this Knicks team hurtling towards the high lottery. The youths all seem aware of the effects it can have on the quality of their sleep, but see it no differently than the usual vices, like partying.
Robinson, a thin, pogo-stick big man who is far and away the most compelling young talent on the team, is also one of its most committed gamers. He used to use Fortnite to fall asleep. Now he says he cut back his hours after seeing his coach’s quotes:
He finds that his energy level has improved. He no longer gets winded as quickly into each stint on the floor.
“I kind of limit my time now, after I read that,” he said. “It kind of makes sense. My energy level is better than it usually was.”
Hezonja stays up late to play while talking to friends and family back in Europe. The 2015 lottery pick believes he has the worst Fortnite habit of any Knick, but claims he still logs his 10 hours of sleep nightly, no matter his gaming commitments.
“I understand why he’s worried,” said Hezonja, who’s playing in a contract year and is one of the league’s worst small forwards. “It’s eating the world. It came too fast.”
Knox, a rookie, even wore a jacket lined with a Fortnite tribute at the 2018 NBA Draft, where he was selected ninth overall. His handle was printed on the lining.
“I’m not a big partier ... I’m more of a homebody,” said Knox, who scores in double-figures, produces stunning highlights, and is having a historically rough rookie season by several metrics. “I like to stay home and play video games, hang out with my family, stuff like that. That whole video game world, it kind of takes over a little bit.”
If the Knicks fail to woo big names this summer and wind up in a fresh-faced era of dysfunction—hell, they could strike gold and still wind up there anyway—Knox’s draft-day portrait will be an iconic snapshot of this time. In the meantime, the kids might as well game away. Zion has fallen but is still alive; the Suns are still falling and arguably aren’t. A Fortnite epidemic would only benefit this shamelessly tanking team. More kills, more ping-pong balls, everyone wins.