How Well Will Knicks’ Newcomers Fare?


With the 2020-21 season off and running, organizations, players and fans are tightening up their metaphorical bootstraps for the long haul. If all parties can take the precautionary measures necessary, things should be in good shape. Undoubtedly, there will be obstacles like the MLB and NFL saw during their respective seasons. Most importantly, though, New York Knicks basketball is back.

From a Knicks fan’s perspective, the organization has recently been showing refreshing signs of competency. The Knicks are shifting gears once again, as they hired Tom Thibodeau to call the shots on the court this season. Their sixth head coach since 2016, Thibodeau is going to find himself in a situation he is not accustomed to. The results are yet to be seen, but this hire signals to the NBA landscape that the Knicks are finally taking themselves seriously.

For a team to rebuild correctly, chemistry needs to build and all moving parts need to mesh harmoniously between the players, coaches and executives. Historically, the Knicks have lacked this chemistry between multiple levels in the organization. Knicks fans are usually optimistic for the season, but mentally prepared for the devastation that likely precedes it.

Here is why this year could ACTUALLY be different, however.

Playoff Pedigree

The last five head coaches for the Knicks had a combined 34 percent winning percentage spanning their entire head coaching careers. Tom Thibodeau’s winning percentage? 59 percent.

The issue with the past five coaches was inexperience. Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and even Jeff Hornacek have playoff pedigrees as players but not as coaches. David Fizdale and Mike Miller were just young and energetic options for when the team really had no direction.

Coincidentally, the last time the Knicks made the playoffs was in 2013 under now-assistant Mike Woodson, who had a lot of success as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks in the late 2000s. This is a very safe and professional hire by the Knicks. The players will be exposed to a different style of coaching, but it should benefit them. Expect there to be growing pains from the young players under this new staff.

What to Expect From The New Regime

Thibodeau could be the Knickerbockers’ ticket out of the dog house. He gets a lot of flack for his tenure in Minnesota, but it is simply not that cut-and-dry.

They say his style won’t work in the modern NBA. The belief is that Thibs’ strategy is antiquated, and its options don’t warrant the same kind of shots that it used to anymore. The league is three-ball oriented and the Knicks will get abused if they do not adapt. Based on Tom’s resume, he shouldn’t receive all the blame for the Wolves’ horrific defensive execution. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle are the most important players on the team at this moment. How they react and adapt to Thibs’ defensive strategy could be the difference maker. Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton are back because they are solid veteran options. Austin Rivers and Alec Burks join the team as microwave scorers on team-friendly contracts who could be used as trade chips if need be. The Knicks drafted Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley with the 8th and 25th picks, respectively. Toppin is in a unique position– he does not have to blossom right away because the organization is expecting other players who are under more pressure to take bigger leaps.

The team needs to play faster, and they have the potential to. Playing faster goes hand in hand with playing smarter, though, which is something the team struggled with heavily last season.

New Additions

Leon Rose and William Wesley have put together a solid batch of complementary pieces this offseason. The most notable hire was former Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne.

Payne was one of the most highly touted assistants in college basketball and the team is already seeing the effects he has had on the construction of this roster. Randle, Quickley, Kevin Knox and the newly welcomed Nerlens Noel are all former top recruits at the University of Kentucky. A lot of times, familiarity and confidence can help cultivate growth. When players have the right support systems in place, they can succeed enormously. Payne will work diligently to ensure that these players can reach new heights in New York.

Other new coaching hires are Johnnie Bryant, Andy Greer (who coached alongside Thibodeau in Chicago) and the aforementioned Woodson, who is back for a third stint coaching in The Garden.

After two disappointing losses to open the season, the Knicks dropped 130 on the East’s reigning No. 1 seed, the Milwaukee Bucks for their first win of the season. Growing pains are inevitable, but there are sure to be some bright spots heading into 2021.

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About Jack Minello

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