What’s Going on with the Knicks?

Fisher DiSimone, Staff Writer

The New York Knicks. A franchise that has seen more bad than good over the years, specifically the 2010s where this team had little to no success. However, in the odd 2020-2021 season where Covid-19 played a large factor in players and coaches being available, protocols the teams had to follow, and overall health guidelines to keep all players and staff safe, the Knicks put the whole league on notice, securing the fourth seed in the East with a 41-31 record. It’s unusual for a team to go 21-45 in one season, then in the next go 41-31 and get a high seed in the playoffs. The main reason this happened was the rise of the Knicks new star player, Julius Randle. Randle was hated by most fans during the 2019-2020 season due to his lack of production, shooting a horrendous 27.7 % from three, and hogging the ball in most games; he just wasn’t being efficient overall. It’s safe to say that Randle silenced the doubters the season after, making his first All-Star appearance, and winning the Most Improved Player award. He improved in almost every aspect of the game by nearly doubling his three point shot percentage, posting 41.1%, the highest in his career so far, converting on almost 200 more FGs than the season before. Randle looked like a top three power forward going forward. There were many other contributors to the Knicks success last season, some being Tom Thibodeau coming in as head coach and winning the Coach of the Year award in his first year; the trade that the Knicks made in the middle of the season to acquire Derrick Rose from the Pistons, who played a major role in getting us to the playoffs and was a Sixth Man of the Year nominee; our young stars playing great (RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin); and having great depth on our roster, which helped us win significantly more games.

It’s safe to say that Knicks fans were overjoyed and excited about the upcoming 2021-2022 season after our success last year. Over the offseason the Knicks acquired some big-name free agents such as Kemba Walker, who is going back to his hometown. Walker, who grew up in the Bronx, said, “It was a kind of moment I’ve dreamed of as a kid” in a press conference after a win in his fourth game suiting up as a Knick. They also acquired Evan Fournier who is coming off his best year, first with the Magic, then the Celtics after a mid-season trade. Fournier also said in press conferences that he wanted to be in New York his whole career and is happy that he is now.

The Knicks season began in their home crowd at Madison Square Garden against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics, who fought their way out of the play-in tournament to secure the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference last season, have been quite underwhelming to say the least. This team has been projected to be a top 10 team in the NBA and has underperformed drastically. Even with star players Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown they have still managed to be a middle-of-the-pack team. I myself went to this game and the atmosphere was unreal. The game went into double overtime and the fans were absolutely electric; there’s a reason why MSG is known as the best sports arena in the world. I lost my voice afterwards from screaming so much, especially after we secured the win 138-134. After the game a new Knicks slogan was born, “Bing Bong,” which is the sound the MTA trains make when they start and stop. This phrase gained so much popularity in the Knicks community, Knicks SG Evan Fournier posted on Instagram and Twitter using the phrase,and even the official Knicks Instagram account used the phrase. After two weeks, the Knicks sat at first in the Eastern Conference at a record of 4-1. 

After the hot start the Knicks had the first two weeks, it started to die down a bit. As of November 9th, the Knicks sit at 7-4 after a few disappointing losses. The Knicks were a top five team in the NBA on that 4-1 and continued to advance to 5-1, then afterwards went down a slight decline. The Knicks lost back-to-back games against the Raptors and the Pacers, two teams who didn’t even make the playoffs last year. After those two games they were faced with a tough matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Knicks won in exciting fashion, coming back from a 21 point deficit against the reigning NBA Finals Champions. 

Unfortunately, the Knicks followed that up with a loss to another team that hasn’t touched the playoffs in years, the Cavaliers. This team’s inconsistency is definitely frustrating, coming back the next game to win against the 76ers, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference right now. Our star player Julius Randle is either on, or off, meaning that he’s either very good or very bad. There are some games where his efficiency is horrible. For example, against the Pacers, Randle shot 6-16, and 0-2 on threes. Yes he had 14 rebounds and 3 assists, but he failed to provide efficient scoring on a night that the Knicks needed him. Teams seem to know how to game plan against him, and he needs to make adjustments, especially when getting double-teamed. At the end of the day, it’s not like Randle is playing ahorribly; he has been playing tremendously well at times, just with a few growing pains along the way. The Knicks also appear to be playing down to their opponents, which is why they are losing to these teams that they are statistically better than. They need to bring the intensity every game and not get lazy on defense to allow large scoring runs by the other team. Nonetheless, I’m very happy about where this team is headed and I truly see us going quite far in the playoffs, as long as we just fix the minor mistakes in our gameplan.

The Knicks fell to the Bucks in their second matchup of the season 112-100, to fall to 7-5. This game was very confusing, from Bucks guard Pat Connaughton leading the game in scoring, to our bench out-scoring our starters by a large margin (32 points from starters, 68 from bench players). Yes, we do have arguably one of the best benches in the league, but there should be no excuse for our starters dropping 32 points. Randle contributed to over half those points, posting 16, while Walker and Fournier dropped 2 each. These are our two free agent acquisitions, who still need to get acclimated with the team. Nonetheless, the Knicks need to figure out how to get out of this shooting slump; every game it feels like there is a cap on the hoop not allowing the ball to go in. It’s gotten bad, especially from a team that’s supposed to have exceptional three point shooters. 

The Knicks faced the Hornets this past Friday (November 12th) and lost 104-96, adding on to their disappointing two-game losing streak. They started off extremely hot, out-scoring the Hornets by a large margin in the first quarter, 34-18, then just failed to keep up with the Hornets as they ran away with the game. Kemba Walker had the best game of the season so far, however, posting 26 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Randle, not so much. Julius Randle has been off his game heavily in these past few games, shooting 4-15, 1-5 from three in their loss. However, they got back on track with a win in their next game against the Pacers, 92-84. Immanuel Quickley and Kemba Walker both dropped 16 each, leading the team in scoring. Randle continued on his shooting skid (5-15, 1-6 on threes) almost costing us this game, as well as several others. Even with the win, it’s difficult to be confident in this team. Their shooting numbers are abysmal, and our star players aren’t performing to their fullest potential. On paper, we have arguably the most depth in the league, which will help us win games, but the players need to play their best and figure out how to fix this shooting problem. As of the date of publication, the Knicks sit at 8-6, which is 6th place in the Eastern Conference.

* Image from nba.com