2021 has already started weird. It is January, and the Knicks have a positive record! Ok, this season is quite different as it just started, but their good start is still a surprise never the less.
The Knicks have been one of the most ridiculed and laughable franchises in the NBA for quite some time now. With their last playoff appearance being in 2013 during the Carmelo Anthony era, the once respectable Knicks culture has downgraded in recent times, as they have been on the bottom of the food chain for quite some time now. So could this be the season they finally make a turnaround in the right direction?
The team has centered around the duo of Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett, who are both having career years and, in a classic Thibodeau style, have been leading the league in minutes played. Randle has been put in the position of the primary ball handler from the power forward position, which gives the team another dimension, with Randle flirting with a triple-double on a nightly basis. The only bad side of that is that he has been overwhelmed at times, producing many turnovers.
From the other side, Barrett has been playing like a stud, proving why he was the 2nd overall pick in last year’s draft. To go along with them, a few other players like Mitchell Robinson, Austin Rivers, Alec Burks, Elfrid Payton, and especially the rookie Immanuel Quickley have exceeded expectations, as they are looking like a good team that believes they can play with anybody. When their lottery pick Obi Toppin gets healthy, they could potentially have even some more firepower.
Many experts believe that the new culture has been produced with the defensive rebirth and emphasis on that side of the floor. They are 6th in the NBA with 105.1 opposing teams points per game. That result is the direct effect of their new head coach Tom Thibodeau who is known for his demanding and defensive style. He might be old school and stubborn at times, but Thibs brings the most out of any roster he gets. The only problem with his style has been that over the course of the long season, his players get worn out and often injured.
One thing is for sure. It is way too early to make any severe predictions, as they are still not a playoff team or a serious threat to the big dogs, but the city of New York deserves a team that will give everyone their best. It is the first step in the right direction of making the Knicks a relevant team in the NBA again.