Two narratives have developed around the New York Knicks as the NBA postseason approaches. The first is that Jalen Brunson has arrived as arguably the team’s best player since Patrick Ewing.
The eternal Carmelo Anthony detractors certainly believe that to be true. 

The other widely parroted utterance does have truth to it. If the Knicks can get back a healthy OG Anunoby and Julius Randle for the postseason, then New York may have a team that no other opponent wants to face in the playoffs. The Celtics are clearly in their own tier at the top of the Eastern Conference, yet they have shown a propensity to occasionally fail to play up to expectations. 

Seeing both Anunoby and Randle in the lineup again seems more of a wish than a reality lately, especially in the latter case. All faithful Knicks followers know the numbers on how well the team has performed with Anunoby in action. Yet, as noted by StaMuse, the Knicks are 12-10 without Randle. 

A good chunk of the fan base has been very hard on Randle, believing he cannot be a pivotal performer on a version of the Knicks that can make a deep playoff run. But it is apparent that the Knicks are a better team with him on the floor. New York needs Randle to be in the mix to have a strong chance of reaching the Eastern Conference finals. 

The Knicks continue to fuel hope for how good they can be at full strength, scoring impressive wins at Sacramento and Golden State despite remaining short-handed.

Any critics of Tom Thibodeau need to pipe down for now, as he is getting maximum effort out of almost every player he utilizes. 

Knickerbocker aficionados’ aspirations have never been higher in recent seasons. Before Randle went down, there was serious talk of making it to the Eastern Conference finals, with a puncher’s chance of going further. Any Knicks fan under 60 years old who has never witnessed the team win a title has seen their hunger for a championship increase over the past two seasons. 

New York Knicks
Photo: ClutchPoints

If the Knicks win a championship over the next few years, you will see an unfurling of bottled-up New York fan passion like never before. Unlike other pro sports in town, the NBA scene in New York is truly dominated by one team. The Mets and Jets have healthy-sized fan bases even if they don’t match those of the more successful neighbors, but New York will always be mostly a Knicks town in pro basketball, even if the Nets are better on the court. 

However, patience must still be exhibited because becoming an elite team and a true title contender is a process, and the Knicks have advanced to a key point in that process. Some fans seem to forget that the 2020-21 season was a breakthrough year, where the Knicks regained authentic respectability and became a playoff team again. That was the first significant step on the path to eventual contention. Randle was an axis of the Knicks’ journey out of the darkness. 

New York was eliminated, rather surprisingly, in the first round by Atlanta, and Randle did not have a good series, but he didn’t have any significant help around him on offense. Last season, the Knicks lost to Miami in the second round, and Randle heard more criticism until it was later revealed he was playing hurt. 

Those who expect Randle to be a focal point of a championship team are misfiring on their takes. He was a big key to bringing the team back to respectability, but he cannot carry the Knicks on his back to a championship. That is not a negative comment. Randle can be a very important piece on a title contender that includes himself, Brunson, and another standout star, which is the heavily implied offseason goal. 

Since 2020-21, we have seen the Knicks progressively take shape as a playoff qualifier and develop into one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. With all major players healthy, they have the goods to give a top-level squad like Boston a real battle. So, in terms of being stamped as a truly elite team, they may be a tier below. 

But even if the season ends short of any lofty goals that fans want to envision because of health or simply being outmatched, stick along for this portion of the ride to possible glory. The New York Knicks may be just one season away from truly joining the ranks of the league’s best and making a long-awaited run at a title. 

Knick fans, continue to be patient (which has been a lot to ask, but we need a bit more), and enjoy the ride.
It may not end where you ultimately want it to this season, yet a trophy is finally coming into view, even if it is only viewable in the distance right now. 

Photo: ClutchPoints

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