What hope is there for Knicks?

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose woke up from his hibernation and addressed the Knicks fans. Sort of.

He spoke to Knicks play-by-play man Mike Breen in a pre-taped interview to address this awful season on MSG Network prior to the Knicks’ 105-94 season finale victory over the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden Sunday night.

Of course, he said nothing as usual. He felt it was beneath him to address us peons through the New York media, who would have asked tougher questions such as why this season was a failure and what can be done to make it better next season. He made Julius Randle out to be a martyr and hailed Tom Thibodeau as a head coach.

Don’t get your hopes up on Rose talking to the media anytime soon. What you saw Sunday night is what you get from the aloof Knicks executive. Quite frankly, it was surprising he even took the time to talk to Breen, and he only did it on a team-controlled network that would insulate him from tough questions. At least, Al Trautwig was not around for this joke of a conversation. This once MSG propagandist would not ask even Rose about Randle, so give Breen credit for even asking about him.

Don’t also get your hopes up on this team bouncing back next season or being a championship contender. Maybe I am speaking in absolutes, but I am speaking with conviction here. What has Rose done in his time here to make any Knicks fan think he will build a championship team? What makes anyone think Thibodeau can coach this team out of the wilderness?

The roster stinks as it is. Even getting rid of Randle won’t cure anything. They need a point guard, and they need a go-to guy that can be a difference-maker. They also need a three-point specialist in a make-or-miss league. Think Rose can address those needs when he hasn’t in his first two nondescript seasons here?

Knock yourself out in getting excited about RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley if you want. But I look at them as nothing more than complementary players at best. This team still needs a star to lead the way.

It sure wasn’t Randle, and it won’t be him. This is a guy that couldn’t make it here. He wants out badly, and the Knicks will happily oblige this offseason. It was so bad that he and the team agree on a banishment as soon as elimination day happened. Toppin’s performances in late March make it easy for both parties to move on.

Randle managed to have a good season last season because there were no fans at Knicks home games. As soon as fans were allowed to be back at the Garden in the playoffs, he got exposed badly. This should have been a sign. It took this season for Rose and Thibodeau to realize that.

Then, there’s Thibodeau. I don’t know what to make of him. He was great last season when he got his team to play together and win games. His team played defense. There was ball movement when the Knicks ran offense. They played like a team that was aggressive and hungry to get wins. None of this happened this season.

If we praise Thibodeau for the great job he did last season, we can also hold him accountable for an awful job this season. That’s the way it works in pro sports. When it comes to the bottom line, we find someone to blame for a lost season. It’s easy to blame the Knicks coach. It’s his responsibility to have his team ready to go and play well every night. He failed to do that this season.

Thibodeau deserves to be called out for babying Randle. His best player not only failed to be the best player, but he turned out to be a malcontent with him trashing the fans directly (thumbs-down act against the Boston Celtics at home) and indirectly (talking about how nice the fans are in his hometown Dallas at Dallas). He couldn’t get his player under control, and he couldn’t get his player to play hard every night. The players no doubt noticed that, and that’s where they stopped responding to the head coach this season. If there’s a double standard with players by a head coach, it does not end well for him.

You have to wonder about the Knicks head coach. He gets results right away, but he wears out his welcome in due time. He showed that with the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s why I questioned this hire in the first place. If he can’t win his players back next season, his tenure will be short here. There was a reason why William Wesley wanted him gone in the middle of the season until Rose stepped in and put the kibosh on that thinking.

Forget about the Knicks winning the lottery. There’s no way the NBA will let this happen as long as James Dolan owns the team. He’s toxic, and the league doesn’t want future stars to be subjected to that. There was a reason the Knicks did not get Zion Williamson or Ja Morant in the 2019 NBA Draft lottery. The team should be thankful they got a serviceable player in Barrett with the dreaded No. 3 pick.

Maybe the Knicks get Williamson from a trade, but the New Orleans Pelicans can get better offers than what the Knicks can offer. Besides I wonder if Williamson has the desire, physique and conditioning to play in the NBA. The Knicks don’t have the culture that would put him in a position to succeed.

The Knicks are not a destination point for free agents to come. This team is still dysfunctional and toxic, which is another strike on Rose. Besides, there’s no one out there worth pursuing.

So basically what you see is what you get next season with the Knicks team. Nothing’s going to change. There’s not much growth you can see from this roster. There’s nothing promising and entertaining about this sorry team. There’s no leadership from the players, coaches and front office. Sure, they can make the playoffs. Sure, they can play in a play-in game. So what? Being one-and-done in the playoffs does not make them any better or intriguing. It speaks how desperate we are to watch a basketball team that we can be proud of in our town to celebrate a playoff appearance last season, even though our heroes stunk in all five games against the Atlanta Hawks in a what was a gentlemen’s sweep.

This season and last year’s playoff series against the Hawks brought us to a harsh reality. More questions and not many answers.

So much for the Knicks being back.

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