BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
There has been apathy with the Knicks.
No one in town has talked much about them. The New York Post has the team’s game stories in the middle of the sports pages rather than on the first page of the sports page. There is a lack of Knicks talk on sports radio. There has not been much conversation about them on Twitter.
There is a reason for it. The Knicks are not a good team. Their record speaks for itself at 10-12. They have lost three straight, and six of seven at home, and they have a losing home record at 4-6. They have struggled to make the big shots in the final seconds of regulation or in overtime.
We reached past the first quarter of the season to have an idea of what this team is. We knew before then the Knicks were not going to be good this season. They lack a superstar that could make a difference in the close games.
In a tough Eastern Conference that features many superstars, the Knicks would be up against a lot this season.
It’s not just the roster that is a problem. It’s the way they play. This is a team that chucks up so many shots that do not even make sense. There is no ball movement. They don’t play defense. Worst of all, they don’t play together and for each other. There’s no sense of urgency when they are playing and after they lose.
The coaching leaves a lot to be desired in the sense that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau seems disengaged. Two years ago, he was all in during his first season as the Knicks head coach, when he would coax and cajole every player on his roster to make the playoffs. He actually had them playing defense that year.
It’s no secret Thibodeau is not that enamored with his roster. He has been pining for a superstar since the day he was hired. He has yet to get one, and the Knicks blew it by not giving up a ransom for Donovan Mitchell.
Thibodeau knows he can only do so much with his roster. The Knicks needed to improve from two seasons ago. Yet, this is the same roster outside of the signing of point guard Jalen Brunson this offseason while the rest of the Eastern Conference teams have improved through better talent.
It’s why the best the team can do is be a mediocre team at best. Sure, there are 60 games left, but it’s hard to believe this team can get better.
Yes, the Knicks deserve credit for going 3-2 on their West Coast trip, including wins against the surprising Utah Jazz and NBA title contender Denver Nuggets. But that is fool’s gold. What we saw with the Knicks at home is a reflection of what they are: A team that can’t seem to protect home court. A team that can’t play winning basketball at home or really anywhere. When road teams win at the Garden frequently, it’s a sign the Knicks are not that good.
There’s no one on this roster that can offer hope for the sorry Knicks.
Sure, Brunson’s been productive with the Knicks statistically, but he isn’t exactly a winning player. It’s on him that these guys aren’t playing together on offense. He’s the point guard, and his job is to ensure everyone knows their roles and to be in a position to get the ball – not to mention, his defense leaves much to be desired.
He hasn’t exactly been a difference-maker in close games. He missed many shots down the stretch in the Knicks’ 109-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at home Wednesday night. He only had one game in which he made shots down the stretch to beat the Philadelphia 76ers team that played without Joel Embiid (non-COVID related illness) and James Harden (right foot strain) on Nov. 4. For the deal he got at four-year, $104 million deal by the Knicks this offseason, he should be doing better than this.
The Knicks point guard might as well be the Knicks version of Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor – a nice player who won’t elevate his team.
RJ Barrett hasn’t been a difference-maker, either. In fact, he shoots the Knicks out of a game by missing in a make-or-miss league. He hasn’t elevated the team the way Ja Morant (the overall No. 2 pick of the 2019 NBA draft before the Knicks picked Barrett at No. 3) did for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Julius Randle lacks the personality to be a leader. He is not a winning player, either. At crunch time, he is unreliable. He is the anti-Charles Oakley due to his unwillingness to do the dirty work on defense.
Obi Toppin can be good, but Thibodeau doesn’t respect his talent. If he really was good, he’d be playing and getting more minutes. The Knicks coach looks at him as nothing more than a nice bench player who’s good in spurts.
Immanuel Quickley’s best days might be behind him. He hasn’t exactly improved over the last few seasons, didn’t make the step to be a starter and hasn’t been the shooter the team hoped he could be.
Derrick Rose’s best days are behind him.
Quentin Grimes is struggling to establish himself as a starter.
What about Mitchell Robinson that strikes anyone as great?
Yeah, Thibodeau doesn’t have much to work with. Even if he managed to reawaken his coaching magic, the best the Knicks can hope for is a play-in game that could determine if they make the playoffs.
If playing in a play-in game and being the last seed in the playoffs constitutes a great season, then we really have no standards for this franchise. The Knicks need to grow up and start being an NBA contender.
They are far away from that and it’s hard to trust Knicks executive Leon Rose in figuring out how to get this franchise right.
Then again, as long as James Dolan owns the Knicks, it will be business as usual. Bad basketball will always be the norm. He ran the Knicks for 21 years, and there has been nothing good in all of those 21 years. Why should anyone think he will figure it out now when he never could?
There’s no reason to watch the Knicks this season. Not only they are bad, but they are boring to watch. There’s no pushing through the hopelessness and despair of this sorry franchise. There’s nothing to believe in. There’s not even false hope.
What you see is what you get with the Knicks.
21 straight years of being horribly managed, and it’s going to be 50 years and counting of no championships after this sorry season is over.
This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6