It’s been two weeks since the New York Knicks were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in a disappointing five games. Still an open wound, it’s time to talk about the season.
Surely, if in November, you approached a fan of the Knickerbockers and told him or her “the Knicks will finish fourth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference,” he or she would’ve surely either laughed at you or looked at you as if you had two heads.
So, the shock of the Knicks being good enough to not have to worry about playing in the play-in and actually getting home-court advantage is a huge success.
The shock of Julius Randle playing well enough to earn himself All-NBA Second Team and watching the development of RJ Barrett during the season is a huge success.
The fact the Knicks were led by Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau to a winning record and a spectacular season is a huge success.
The sudden switch in culture has certainly opened the eyes of players in the NBA. This team has tried to use the legacy of its building to try to lure free agents and it has failed. Maybe, just maybe, free agents see a possible positive direction in Manhattan and this team becomes a destination for a superstar.
All of this makes the season a success.
But, with success, expectations change.
The Knicks came into their playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks after sweeping the regular season series. Julius Randle had averaged over 37 points in those three games against Atlanta and RJ Barrett had averaged 21 points against the Hawks. It really should not have been an issue for the Knicks to make it to the Conference Semifinals.
The performance of Randle and Barrett (except for when he baptized Bogdanovic) in the playoffs was laughable. There were situations in which Thibodeau refused to adjust his scheme and lineups. Plus, the elimination of Elfrid Payton from the starting lineup came way too late.
The Hawks were beatable for the Knicks, but they simply were not up to the task. Whether the suddenly packed arenas after a year without fans had an effect on play is not an excuse.
Had the Knicks beat the Hawks and had gotten swept in the Conference Semifinals by the Philadelphia 76ers, then the season was a 100% success.
Why? Because you beat the team you swept during the season in the first round and lost to the more talented team that you haven’t defeated since Ben Simmons joined them.
But, after getting embarrassed in just five games in the first round of the playoffs by a team you swept in the regular season, how successful of a season is it?
Simply put, when there was a month left in the season and it became more possible for the Knicks to go up against Atlanta as a four-seed in the playoffs, even the most realistic and optimistic fans saw an opportunity for this team to go to the second round of the playoffs.
But maybe, just maybe, a free agent superstar sees the direction the Knicks have taken over the past 12 months and seriously considers joining this franchise that is hungry to go deep into the playoffs in the near future.