The New York Knicks can no longer be considered bottom feeders. There’s a real live pulse in Manhattan, and Knicks fans who once wore trash bags on their heads in public are now lining the streets in front of Madison Square Garden, gathering in jubilation and shouting, “Go, New York. Go, New York. Go.”
And some other more profane forms of expression too.
Gone are the days of Pat Riley and Patrick Ewing. But the hiring of Tom Thibodeau has brought a culture change that has The Garden rockin’ nightly. You want proof that New York Knicks fans have had a complete change of attitude?
Well, after Sunday night’s terrible 126-109 drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Knicks fans didn’t start blasting their organization. Or a popular target, owner James Dolan.
Instead, most fans are happy with the 6-4 record and seventh-place Eastern Conference position so far. New York was even in first place for a hot minute after six games this season.
This makes me happy for Knicks fans pic.twitter.com/38T8vqQO63
— C’Angelo (Hood Homeboy) 💙 (@1creativegold) October 31, 2021
Last season the Knicks surprised everyone and finished with the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Although they were beaten in five games by the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round, the feeling around the league was the “Knicks Are Back.” When you see Spike Lee up dancing and partying on the front row, you know things are much different than when this team struggled for seasons to field a competitive squad.
Knicks Off-Season Moves Are Good Fits
Following the 2020-21 season, which saw Julius Randle become an All-Star as the team’s go-to player and Derrick Rose showing flashes of his 2011 MVP season, their first-round playoffs exit was a sign that the roster needed further upgrading.
Here’s something to cheer for Knicks fans. Derrick Rose hits a career milestone with this drive for his 12,000th career point. pic.twitter.com/wsYYYDwV2J
— alder almo (@alderalmo) November 3, 2021
The team finally brought Kemba Walker home.
The Bronx product gets to play in the same legendary arena that started his improbable run to an NCAA Tournament title with UConn in 2011.
Jim Calhoun dipped off into the sunset in his final year with UConn as the Huskies rode the back of All-America guard Walker to a stunning Big East Championship over Louisville. Walker scored a tournament-record 130 points in five games. Years later, he finally gets to play for his hometown team.
Adding a three-point threat like Evan Fournier added some much-needed shooting to the Knicks. Thibodeau says he wants the team taking more threes and getting more comfotable shooting them in clutch situations.
Last season the team had six players who shot 40 percent from deep during the regular season, but that number dropped to two players in the pressure-packed, high-intensity playoffs. This season they don’t have as many shooting that high a percentage, but they have more players who can make a shot from deep.
The Development Of RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and like any rookie he struggled at times, but his numbers improved significantly last season. Thibs stuck with his young player, prompting Barrett to confidently tell reporters in a recent interview that, “He (Thibs) always had my back.”
Barrett’s 17.6 points per game average legitimized Barrett and Thibs’ belief in him. Even if the rest of the league hasn’t caught up yet.
Having the confidence of your head coach is mandatory for any young player to reach his potential. Barrett has really elevated his game and become a quality second option behind Randle.
RJ Barrett over the last 3 Games:
20 Points – 3 Rebounds – 53% FG
35 Points – 8 Rebounds – 66% FG
27 Points – 6 Rebounds – 69% FG pic.twitter.com/f5djVPeoGP
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) November 2, 2021
The former Duke All-American is averaging a career-high 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per night in his third season, including a 35-point explosion, while also shooting 40 percent from three. RJ’s play this season has been downright magnificent, and the Knicks have benefited from his growth and continued development.
Big Wins This Season
The Knicks began the 2021-22 season with a double-overtime win over the Celtics, and then wins over the Sixers and defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Knicks immediately established themselves as more than one-year wonders. And they have the look of a team who can actually win a playoff series this season.
How the Knicks continue this steady rise will depend heavily on how much Julius Randle and RJ Barrett and 2020 rookie Obi Topin continue to develop.
D-Rose throws it up…
Obi Toppin throws it DOWN!
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/IQHpHGSaJe
— NBA (@NBA) November 6, 2021
It’s safe to say with Tom Thibodeau leading the way and guiding the Knicks they’ll have a shot at it.