What Happened to the Knicks?
Last year around this time the New York Knicks was the biggest surprise in the NBA. They finished with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and it looked like the franchise was finally taking a turn. That was not the case for this season, everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong.
The season started out on the up with a double-overtime victory against the Celtics in the opening game. The Knicks went 5-1 in their first six games, it seemed as if the season was picking up where it left off. After a bad loss to the Orlando Magic, the team started to unravel. They would start blowing big leads or the team would just simply not show up.
The Knicks have not had a winning record since January 15th they were 22-21. Since then they could not get themselves back on track. Before the all-star break, they would have bad stretches going on three to four-game losing streaks. They even hit a seven-game losing streak at one point.
The problems are deeper than what was on the court, coaching and the front office take a good amount of the blame.
After overachieving last season, the front office signed some vets to help the team reach the fourth seed or better again. Alec Burks was a good signing at the beginning of the season but soon it would backfire. With point guards like Derrick Rose going down and Kemba Walker in and out of the lineup, Burks had to play more of a lead guard role. That is not the role he is best at and due to that, he has not been the best version of himself.
Nerlens Noel signed a three-year 32 million contract deal that most deemed questionable because of his durability. He has never played a whole season and has only played 70 games in a season twice. This season he has only played in 25 games. He averaged 3.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. This could be a contract the front office regrets if Noel does not stay healthy for the majority of next season.
Rose was the to be the leader off the bench. He alone would keep the Knicks in games when no one else could score. Rose’s addition to the team last season was great. His leadership and ability to score when needed got the team on a late surge to make the fourth spot in the conference. This season has been different. At the age, Rose is at and with his history of injuries, it is almost impossible for him to recreate what he did last season.
The worst of the signings have to be Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Fournier was going to compliment the scoring of Julius Randle but that has not been the case. Fournier would have random big games but for the most part, he could never get it going. It was hard to tell what kind of game he would put out on a nightly basis. Walker had an up and down season. He had a stretch where he didn’t play for nine games and then has a triple-double on Christmas Day.
Last year’s Most Improved Player Julius Randle had big expectations this year. Some might say he was expected to become the number one guy but, that has not come to fruition. He has been leading the way in most categories and can have a big night any night but he has not been consistent. With a brand new contract there comes expectations. More attention from other teams and clashes with fans have gotten the best of Randle this season.
A bright spot for the Knicks is RJ Barrett. He stepped up in a major way and was the scoring reliever for Randle when Fournier was signed to do that. He might not be the number one scorer but he can score in bunches. If he and Randle can coexist this can take the Knicks to where they want to go.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has cost the Knicks the season with his ways. He is always playing his starters for most of the game which hurts them down the stretch of games. When players are struggling he does not change anything, he never has any in-game adjustments either. The only change came from injuries other than that everything stayed the same. The team has lost multiple games where they had 20 point leads in games. That falls on the coaching of Thibs. Patience at this point has to be gone and even though the team says they won’t move on from Thibs the breaking point is near.
The final problem, the Knicks made no moves at the trade deadline. When the front office is quiet about not making moves to improve an underachieving team it is concerning to fans.
The Knicks should focus more on the youth they have rather than playing vets that will get hurt most of the season. Coach Thibs has to get out of his own way and the team’s way and improve as well. There is blame to go around but who will be the leader and step up to get this franchise back on track?