If you’ve ever rented a beach house, then you’re bound to see what I call “white suburban mom quotes” scattered throughout the house. Quotes like “Live Laugh Love,” “Life is better at the beach,” or “Salt life” might hang from the walls. If Madison Square Garden is the beach house and the New York Knicks are the residents, then the picture on the locker room wall might read “Things will get worse before they get better.”
The Knicks lost to the New Orleans Pelicans (17-28 record) last night, 102-91. That’s three straight losses for the Knicks, all at MSG, and all against teams with a similar talent level.
So I bring in (my friend) Zac Efron to ask the all-important question. With a 22-24 record, are we [the knicks] ever going to be better than this?
The loss against the Pelicans followed the same script we’ve seen when the Knicks play poorly. Slow start, comeback in the second quarter, atrocious third quarter, and a tiny run to make it a respectable loss in the fourth. Julius Randle had 4 points on 1-9 shooting with a +/- of -26. That’s simply unacceptable from Randle. Bad games happen, but what’s even more disappointing is the team’s refusal to let him speak after games.
Many fans are at a crossroads with Randle. The MOP from 2021 is one of the three biggest reasons (Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau as the other two) as to why the team made the playoffs as a four-seed a season ago. However, Randle has struggled to live up to last season’s greatness as his points and shooting percentage have significantly decreased. That deserves criticism.
The thumbs-down controversy and inability to step in front of the mic especially after losses is a bad look for the supposed leader of the team. I have no defense for those decisions. However, the Knicks would not be two games under .500 if Randle was out of the lineup. I’d venture to say they’d be seven to eight games under .500. As long as Randle is a Knick, the team needs him to play and produce. His production does not grow on trees.
Once again, Randle deserves criticism, but fans have to keep that same energy when criticizing other aspects of the team. The Knicks’ struggles do not fall solely on Randle’s back. Most fans including myself believe Randle would be a good second player or great third-best player on a team. He needs help. The Knicks brought in Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to help bolster the offense, which ranks 27th in the NBA. Both players have been extremely inconsistent (Fournier and Kemba combined for 11 points against the Pelicans), and neither guy has shown they can stay in front of another player on defense.
Upon arrival, Thibs installed a toughness that the Knicks so desperately needed. With his style comes concessions especially in the rotation. If you’re not “his guy,” then Thibs won’t give you big minutes. Younger players get shorter leashes. Just ask Obi Toppin, who has the third-highest PER (17.25) on the roster, but plays less than 16 minutes a game.
It’s becoming a reoccurring theme to post the +/- of the Knicks roster after a game and laugh at how the bench typically outplays the starters, which happened against the Pelicans.
Take it with a grain of salt. Younger players like Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and Cameron Grimes deserve more minutes. But let’s not forget when Randle missed two games because of Covid in Dec. The Knicks lost two-straight games and scored 80 points against the Thunder and 105 points against the Raptors. Benching Randle is not necessarily the answer when the team fumbled two opportunities to win games without their star player.
Leon Rose is not free of blame as well. Rose has won almost every trade he’s made including the most recent acquisition of Cam Reddish. However, Rose signed:
- Fournier – 4 years, $73m
- Derrick Rose – 3 years, $43m
- Alec Burks – 3 years, $30m
- Nerlens Noel – 3 years, $27m
- Kemba Walker – 2 years, $17m
All of these contracts have team options in the final year of the deals so it’s not a total disaster. However, Rose, who was the most deserving of a contract, and Noel are both injury-prone players who are hurt once again. Kemba is a limited asset. Fournier is allergic to defense. Burks is a nice, not great, player. The Knicks were blown out by the Hawks because of their lack of talent. Are any of those signings better than the Hawks starting five? How about their top 7? Rose can say he is, but the others can’t.
I once again return to Mr. Efron and ask if things will get better. With nine out of the next ten games coming against teams that currently sit in playoff contention, the season might get a lot worse.
The Knicks are a Play-In team at best this year, which means every single player besides Reddish (since he was just acquired) should be on the block with the trade deadline three weeks away. Yes, that means Randle and RJ Barrett, who has improved dramatically over the last month, can be traded. This team needs star players, and Leon Rose knows that. The Knicks should be calling teams like the Kings and the Sixers to check on the availability of De’Aaron Fox and Ben Simmons. If upgrading the roster isn’t possible before the trade deadline, at least call teams to set up future relationships for the off-season.
Technically, the season is not over. A trade could spark a winning streak as it did with D-Rose in 2021. But if this 10-game stretch turns into a 10-game losing streak, then the Knicks are in for a long offseason.
If you have thoughts about the Knicks, leave them in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.