‘Everything’s On The Table Now’ | Knicks Blow 28-Point Lead To Star-Less Nets, What Changes Are Coming?

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The New York Knicks led the Brooklyn Nets by as many as 28 points on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. In the fourth quarter, the Knicks were up 18 on a Nets team without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, and wound up losing 111-106. It was the third time in 11 days the Knicks blew a lead of 20 points or more, and head coach Tom Thibodeau and the franchise are searching for answers.

“Everything’s on the table now,” Thibodeau said. “It has to be. And it’s got to be merit-based. I’m not going to give minutes just to give minutes. So that’s not happening. You earn what you get.”

The Knicks head into the All-Star break with a record of 25-34. They’re 12th in the East, and the momentum they built last season has not carried over.

Last season, Thibodeau led the Knicks to a 41-31 record, the number-four seed in the Eastern Conference, and their first playoff appearance since 2013. Coming into this season there was a belief that the Knicks had turned the corner as a franchise, a winning culture was being established and respectability has been restored.

Where did it go wrong?

One area is on the defensive end. Last season, the Knicks were fourth in aDRTG; this year they’re 16th. Thibodeau hasn’t forgotten how to coach defense in a year. But for whatever reason, the team isn’t defending at the level it did last season.

They’ve also regressed offensively, though not as bad. They’ve gone from 23rd to 25th, but are scoring two points less per 100 possessions.

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Knicks’ forward Julius Randle is an easy target as he was the team’s best player last season. He was the league’s most-improved player, earned second team All-NBA honors, and was an All-Star. He’s having the third worst season of his career, according to estimated plus minus and the second worst season in efficiency (eFG% and TS%).

“It’s tough right now,” Randle said. “Ups and downs, we have good moments, we have bad. But it’s tough. We feel like we should be better than what we are right now, obviously. But we’re not, so can’t dwell on it. Keep one foot in front of the other and keep trying to turn it around. Keep trying to make it right.”

Thibodeau hinted at lineup changes, but he’s known around the league for not trusting young players and relying too heavily on veterans. Any lineup changes he makes will be going against his historical coaching track record. Not saying he can’t do it; we’ve just never seen it.

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Following the loss, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said Knicks’ management may not be happy with Thibodeau and implied his job could be on the line.

Thibodeau said it himself: “Everything is on the table” including his job. But it would be a mistake for Leon Rose, Scott Perry, William Wesley and Knicks management to fire Thibodeau after two seasons. The last thing this franchise needs is more instability.

This season didn’t go as expected, but what can you salvage?

After the All-Star break, there are 20 or so games remaining. Play the kids. Don’t try to grind out a play-in appearance. For who? For what?

There is a lot of young talent on this roster, but we don’t know enough about them because they don’t play enough. In the offseason, management should have a conversation with Thibodeau about evolving his coaching philosophy.

Every year, we talk about players improving in the offseason; the same holds true for coaches. You have core basketball principles, but how does a coach evolve his philosophy to mesh with the talent he has?

If Thibodeau is willing to do that and show a roadmap then there’s no need to panic. But if he’s unwilling, his future should be on the table for discussion.

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