The New York Knicks are a competent basketball team.
Say it again with pride.
The New York Knicks are competent and entertaining basketball team.
After a 112-100 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the Knicks hold a record of 5-3 despite an 0-2 start. For any other team in the NBA, a 5-3 record would be nothing to celebrate. Because it’s the Knicks, it calls for cartwheels.
The Knicks are over .500 for the first time since 2012-2013. As a fan of the team who’s watched every game this season, wins do not tell the whole story. There is an attitude and swagger to this team that hasn’t been present at Madison Square Garden since the 2013 Playoffs.
It all starts with Tom Thibodeau. Not hiring Tom Thibodeau earlier when the team had multiple chances this past decade now looks silly. Thibs has the Knicks buying into his system of team defense and playing hard every possession.
The Knicks are seventh in the NBA in defensive efficiency with 104.0. Last season, they ranked 23rd with 110.6. It’s early, but the improvement on the defensive end is eye-opening.
Then, there’s Julius Randle, who is on an absolute tear to start the season, averaging career highs of 23.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 7.4 assists. Thibs calls Randle the “Engine of the Knicks.” If you were to ask any Knick fan as to what would happen first, Randle becomes an efficient stud or Randle gets traded, every single fan would pick the latter. Does Randle still take questionable shots? Yes. Does he still commit dumb fouls? Yes. But, the good finally outweighs the bad.
Speaking of improvement, RJ Barrett looks like a completely different player from a year ago. In my season preview, I said Barrett needed to showcase the all-star potential in his sophomore season. After back-to-back 25+ point games against Indiana and Atlanta, the “Maple Mamba” is gaining confidence quickly.
Did someway say quickly? I’m referring to Immanuel Quickley, the first-round pick out of Kentucky. Quickley might be the most fearless rookie to lace it up for the Knicks in the 21st century. He was an integral part of the come-from-behind win over Atlanta, tallying 16 points. Plus, he went to the “James Harden School of How to Draw Fouls.”
Every night, a different player seems to step up. Against the Jazz, Austin scored 14 straight points in the fourth quarter. Against the Hawks, Randle, Barrett, and Quickley combined for 70 points. When the Knicks played the Bucks, Elfrid Payton dropped 27 points and 7 assists. Obi Toppin and Alec Burks have barely played this season so once they come back, the Knicks will have a solid bench.
Maybe I’m drinking the Kool Aid too much. It’s only been eight games. If there’s one thing about the Knicks, they let you down in the worst way. For a team that hasn’t finished with a .500 record in eight years, do I even have a right to be an optimist?
After listening to an inspiring quote from Rivers, how can I not have believe this year might be different?
This emotional high won’t last forever. There will be a rough patch at some point. With that being said, something about this year gives me the confidence to believe the Knicks will persevere.
It’s early, but this could be the start of something special.
Do you believe the New York Knicks can sustain this success? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.