The New York Knicks are now seven games below .500 on the season after a blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. Despite Julius Randle posting 28 points, New York allowed Denver’s bench to run wild, combining for 61 points, including 22 from Bones Hyland. The starters were equally as dominant, leaving the Knicks floundering once again as they tried to cross the finish line without falling to a 20-point deficit.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau is at the center of the team’s issues, failing to maximize the players on the roster and adapting to their strengths. The player combinations he’s deployed have been lackluster on both sides, but the team seems to be running an entirely different offense compared to last season — lacking effort in the process.
During the 2020-21 season, Thibs relied on Randle to build confidence, driving to the rim with his physicality and posting up shooters in the corners waiting for defenses to collapse. However, Randle has spent more time around the perimeter, handing the ball off to Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier as they run aimlessly trying to heave up inefficient shots.
Luckily for the Knicks, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson have been playing incredibly well as individuals during their most recent stretch of losses. Without them, the Knicks would be in no-mans-land without an ounce of hope.
Nonetheless, Thibs has found a way to put Barrett in danger, playing him far too much in recent days despite blowout conditions. In the 4th quarter, with the team down double-digit points and no chance at a comeback, he threw Barrett back onto the court. The team was down 15 with just 25 seconds left on the clock.
During that final 25 seconds, Barrett twisted his ankle and hobbled off the court in pain. Over the past three games, Barrett has played 50, 43, and 35 minutes. The last two games were back-to-back.
“Trainers are looking at him,’’ Thibodeau said. “I don’t want to say anything until they look at him. He sat most of the fourth. We got it down to 13 and wanted to see if we could make a run.’’
The team is still confident that Thibs can lead the team, specifically Randle, who came to his defense despite showcasing poor leadership at times this season:
“Thibs is our leader and I trust Thibs with everything and I’m just a soldier for him,’’ Randle said. “If he wants me playing 48 minutes, I’ll play 48 minutes. If he wants me playing 20 minutes, I’ll play 20 minutes. I don’t care what it is. He’s who’s in charge and I’m going to do whatever coach asks me, regardless of what anybody thinks.’’
Many fans and analysts have been calling for the team to play their youngsters. Only one young bench player is enjoying over 20 minutes of action per game this season — Immanuel Quickley. Quickley has been forced into a point guard role with Derrick Rose out. He has been struggling to shoot efficiently and run the offense with confidence.
At what point do the New York Knicks give Duece McBride a shot at being the team’s point guard? Allowing him to string a few games together may provide him the necessary momentum to gain steam, but the Knicks continue to force him back to the G-League despite their obvious need for an athletic PG who can at least play defense.
Ultimately, the decision-making in-game has led us to question Thibodeau’s methods. We continue to ask, where Cam Reddish? Since being acquired from the Hawks, Reddish has been a non-factor in most games. With the team struggling, what’s the harm in Reddish getting more playing time? They can’t trade him in a package deal anyway via the CBA requirements for players acquired. He would have to be traded as a singular piece, which wouldn’t amount to much unless the Knicks are looking for a multi-team trade where Reddish is sent on his way solo-dolo.
If the Knicks really want to turn this season around, they need to land a legit point guard at the deadline on Thursday. Otherwise, they need to continue playing their youth players. Grimes should be stealing minutes from Fournier once he returns, and McBride needs minutes at point guard over Walker at this point.