The New York Knicks continue to unravel before the eyes of their fans. On Sunday, they picked up their first win in almost a month with a surprising and relieving 116-93 blowout win over the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the first time the Knicks, led by their defensive-minded Head Coach Tom Thibodeau, held an opponent to less than 100 points since January 31. The Knicks defeated the Sacramento Kings that night at The World’s Most Famous Arena, 116-96. The Knicks and the Kings are slated to do battle on Monday night.
However, if a fan is hanging his or her head, tell him or her to lift their spirits (or to stop being so damn negative, either or).
The most glaring and obvious talking point during the stretch has been Rj Barrett. It seems as though the Canadian is finding his footing. During the Knicks’ seven-game losing streak, Barrett was inactive for the first three losses as he was recovering from the ankle roll in Denver. But in the last four losses, Barrett averaged an even 30 (!!!) points a night on 41% shooting from the field with six rebounds and five dimes a night, including a career-high 46 points against the Eastern Conference leading Miami Heat. However, during the Heat game, Barrett missed eight free throws and missed out on what should’ve been a 50 Burger. He told the media that he was “pissed off” about the ineptitude from the free throw line after that night, so he went ahead and has responded over the last five games with a 72% mark from the free throw line, including a perfect 7-for-7 in the win against the Clippers.
Although he is still playing at a respectable level with the occasional “struggling all night” game, it also looks as if the Knicks have deviated from their original plan of having Randle as the primary scorer. Now, whether this is Thibodeau’s idea, the front office’s demand or Barrett simply taking charge is something that will never be made public. But, when the team realizes that Barrett is the guy and the offense starts to go through him, magical things will happen to this franchise. The million-dollar question remains: Will the Knicks realize this?
Also, the Knicks’ original plan of reaching the playoffs for a second straight year has not materialized and it does not look like they will. Since returning from the All-Star Break, Thibodeau has sent out lineups that Knicks fans have been clamoring for quite sometime now. Fans had grown tired of watching Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson play and wanted to see more of Obi Toppin and Jericho Sims. While Toppin has been on the mend over the last few games, we’ve seen more out of Sims. In his first 18 games in the league, the rookie out of Texas was averaging 6.5 minutes a game. Over his last five, he’s averaging 16 minutes a game. Sims has a similar playstyle to that of Mitchell Robinson. He is a 7-footer who possesses springboards for legs, battling for every rebound and making a defender think twice about attempting a shot in the paint. He certainly has the potential to grow into something exciting on the defensive again, but like Robinson, Sims has not shown much of an offensive game. Most of his shot attempts come above the rim with the occasional push shot with one hand in the paint. There is no jumper to his game and no low-post game. But let’s be honest, Robinson is an exciting player, who is a fan favorite. He seems like he enjoys playing in New York, despite sometimes showing frustrations on and off the court. We know he enjoys some Marc Berman. But, Robinson is also on the final year of his contract. The Knicks drafted a nearly identical version of Robinson in Sims. If New York does not re-sign Robinson, don’t be shocked if we see Sims assume Robinson’s role in some capacity, whether as a starter or the anchor off the bench.
The Knicks continue to play the kids in the post All-Star Break stretch, something its fan base has been begging for for about a month and a half now. In the Knicks’ win over the Clippers, the lineup that included Barrett, Cam Reddish, Immanuel Quickley and Miles McBride outscored the Clippers 36-6 in the 12 minutes they played together.
Plus, many Knicks fans still are down on Quickley being an option at the point for the Knicks. Running point guard cuts deeper than what the box score says. Yes, his shot selection at times is poor but cut the tape, because it’ll tell you Quickley provides a jolt of energy, especially when he’s on the floor with his fellow youngsters. Sometimes, a jolt of energy is all you need.
With the Knicks record sitting at 26-38, good enough for 12th in the East, five and a half games back of the 10 seed, it might be time to start planning your summer vacation in Cancun without worrying about missing Knicks games. Yes, it’s not what fans envisioned after that overtime win against the Celtics on Opening Night, but the season isn’t a complete waste as we continue to see the future of this team grow and flourish. Over the last 18 games, fans should be focusing on what the Knicks have in their young guys. If their play results in wins, then yay. If their play results in losses, then so be it.