BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Michelle Farsi/Getty Images)
It wasn’t long ago Knicks fans hailed Tom Thibodeau for leading the Knicks to the playoffs in his first year as head coach. He received worship from the fans that Pat Riley used to get in the 90s for his work as a Knicks head coach.
Now, he has become the brunt of Knicks fans’ frustration in what has been a disappointing 25-34 season heading to the All-Star break. His bosses haven’t been happy with his work, either, which promptly speculation about his job security all of sudden.
It’s crazy to even speculate and talk about Thibodeau’s job security. He is in the second year of a five-year contract. For crying out loud, he was the NBA Coach of the Year. He didn’t get dumb during the summer.
Look, Thibodeau made mistakes this season. It’s infuriating he is not playing Obi Toppin and Cam Reddish. He and the front office are not collaborating when it comes to using the roster. The team has not responded to his coaching by not playing defense. He certainly hasn’t had the solutions to the Knicks’ skidding ways. He enabled Julius Randle to act like a child when he should be disciplining him.
But it was not his idea to sign a washed-up Kemba Walker and unproductive Evan Fournier as free agents He did not make the decision to sign Randle to an extension. It was not his idea to run it back with a flawed roster that overachieved last season. Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose and executive vice president William “World Wide Wes” Wesley made these moves. They should be held accountable for this season more than Thibodeau.
The Knicks needed to get Damian Lillard or a star to take this team to the next level, which is winning a playoff round. They didn’t, and now they are in a position where they will likely miss the playoffs. There has not been cohesion and synergy on this roster. Randle checked out this season for whatever reason. The kids regressed. This is where the Knicks front office should take the blame, not Thibodeau.
The front office couldn’t make any trades since no team wanted anyone on the Knicks’ roster. That’s an indictment on Rose and Wesley, not Thibodeau.
Thibodeau can only do so much with this roster. It comes down to talent. The Knicks don’t have a player that can be a difference-maker. They don’t have a point guard. They don’t have a shooter who can shoot 3s. Until Rose and Wesley find those guys, it’s going to be more of the same.
Looking back, we overrated this team at the start of the season. We should have realized this team overachieved last season. Thibodeau always has his teams overachieve in his first season. It wasn’t going to be sustainable this season since teams would take them seriously and the crowd would return to the Garden.
We reached the point of the season now that everyone is playing the blame game. The fans have done this for months now. Now Thibodeau’s bosses are doing the same.
According to SportsNet New York’s Ian Begley, Wesley mentioned to James Dolan that Thibodeau has not gotten much out of his roster. That’s just another example of the wretched culture that Dolan created since he had the keys to the Garden in 2001 where guys are in self-preservation mode by putting the blame on others.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone this happened. Management was not happy that Thibodeau has not played Cam Reddish when they acquired him for Knicks bust Kevin Knox. They weren’t happy when he played RJ Barrett in garbage time when the game was out of reach in Denver, which was when he sprained his ankle. It was Wesley’s way of getting back at the Knicks head coach.
Not only the Knicks are terrible, but they are dysfunctional. This is troubling. This may not get better. The schedule gets harder for the Knicks after the post-All-Star break. They play the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers at home to start the post-All-Star break, and then start a seven-game road trip against the 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and the Nets.
By then, the Knicks could put themselves in a position where the playoffs are out of reach for good. It’s hard to be optimistic with the way the Knicks have played these days by losing 13 of their last 16 games heading to the All-Star break.
This could mean Thibodeau could be coaching for his job. I don’t think he will be fired this season, but he could be gone after the season is over.
If Dolan hates anything, it’s a lack of collaboration with management, ownership and head coach and the Knicks losing to the Nets.
Blowing a 28-point lead and losing 111-106 to the Nets, which had Nets fans hooting at Madison Square Garden, does not sit well for Dolan. It shouldn’t either.
Thibodeau earned the right to get this team back on track. His resume speaks for itself. His job performance last season should give him that opportunity.
I don’t know if he is the head coach that will lead the Knicks back to the glory days of the Riley era. I don’t know if anyone can with this talent on the roster.
Firing him would do nothing, and it would be crazy to fire another head coach under Dolan. This franchise needs stability more than ever.
Somehow, there has to be a common ground with Thibodeau, Wesley and Rose moving forward.
That’s the only way things can get really better along with getting better players.
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