The New York Knicks are sputtering as we roll into the final month of the calendar year. Since starting the season at 5-1, the Knicks are 5-10 since, including an active three-game losing streak after close losses to the Nets and Bulls and a blowout loss to the Nuggets.
Fans are looking to blame, pointing fingers every which way like the Spider-Man meme. Some fans erroneously are blaming Julius Randle, the man who is averaging a double-double a night with five assists. Yes, there are times in which Randle does seem disengaged particularly on defense and there are times when the ball starts to stick to him and the ball doesn’t move as much. But make no mistake, Randle continues to be the best player on this team and it’s not close. If you are blaming Randle for this team’s struggles, simply put, you are lost.
Others are correctly pinning the blame on the supporting cast around Randle. Rj Barrett isn’t playing well on offense right now, Evan Fournier is either very hot or very cold, Mitchell Robinson gained all that muscle but isn’t using his new body to its full potential, Kemba Walker was such a non-factor this season, he’s been relegated to the pine.
After the Knicks’ embarrassing loss to the Nuggets at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks are now 5-8 this season, some felt as though Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau was pinning the blame on Barrett.
“Last year, he got going when he started coming in every night to shoot. So there’s no notion that you [work] sometimes, you got to do it all the time. So get back in the gym, get back to grooving your shot. Shoot a lot of 3s and you’ll start making more,” Thibodeau said.
Over the last month, Barrett is shooting 33% from the field, 22% from deep and 67% from the free throw line.
The same fans who say this slump New York is in is Randle’s fault cried foul when they read this isolated part of Thibodeau’s presser, claiming ignorance by Thibodeau as Barrett has been dealing with a stomach issue.
“It’s similar to last year,” said Thibodeau moments before the first quote. “I have a lot of confidence in [Barrett] being able to work his way out of it. When you throw in he’s been sick, and to me you get rhythm when you work.”
Thibodeau wasn’t calling out Barrett for a lack of motivation. All he said was Barrett’s woes are still here because he’s been sick, which has prevented him from going to the gym to take some extra shots. Thibodeau has praised Barrett and his work ethic before, including before the season started. How quick people are to forget that.
Thibodeau also recently mentioned that he might make more changes to the lineup. Already having made the huge change of removing Walker from the lineup, fans are left wondering who will be the next casualty from the lineup.
The only viable option should be Evan Fournier getting relegated to the second unit, contract be damned. Fournier’s lack of consistency on offense has been detrimental to the Knicks and his subpar defense hasn’t helped at all either. It is time for Immanuel Quickley to graduate into the starting lineup. But, not everyone should feel safe with his role and amount of minutes right now, and that includes Barrett and Robinson.
It also wouldn’t be a surprise if there are changes to the second unit as well. Nerlens Noel has been awful all year. In his limited minutes, Jericho Sims has proved that he deserves Noel’s minutes. Also, fans with a clue continue to beg for more Obi Toppin minutes. When the New York native is on the floor, he produces.
It’s been tough for Knicks fans. Some fans are miserable, begging for trades, whipping up the Trade Machine and putting out hilarious trade requests for Ben Simmons and Damian Lillard, requests that any NBA general manager laughs at uncontrollably while he hangs up. Remember Knicks fans, the Knicks have a better record right now than they did at this point last year.