As the third quarter was coming to an end against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night, New York Knicks fans chanted “Obi, Obi, Obi!” They wanted the second-year power forward to replace Julius Randle, who had an extraordinarily difficult evening, finishing with just four points over 29 minutes.
The loss marks the third consecutive in recent days, and despite RJ Barrett’s best efforts, the team hasn’t managed to rally around him and maintain his hot start to the new year. Unfortunately, Randle has found himself struggling to maintain form, playing well during the winning streak last week until completing a disappearing act against the Pelicans.
Randle’s inconsistencies this season are straightforward — he’s taken a significant step back in shooting efficiency and seems to lack energy at times. Nobody questions Randle’s work ethic, but it seems the Knicks may be forced into a trade deadline move because of the ailing star.
“It’s easy to say [that Randle has been off-kilter], but it’s really our entire team,” Tom Thibodeau said, via Marc Berman of the NY Post. “When things aren’t going our way, Julius is gonna take a lot of blame. He gets a lot of the credit, but that goes with the turf. But it’s a team game, and we didn’t get into it with any one individual. When they’re not going our way, I just want us to be mentally tough and be able to work through it.”
Thibodeau has a point, to a degree. Randle will undoubtedly take his fair share of criticism because of the hostile New York market, but scoring four points against a sub .500 Pelicans team is unacceptable. The team desperately needs more from their All-Star, who averaged 24 points last year and has dropped down to just 19 this season.
Tom Thibodeau needs more scoring, but the primary catalyst is consistency. The Knicks have plenty of talent and playmakers to get the job done, they are just rarely ever playing at the top of their game simultaneously. The disappearing act of multiple players this season has bewildered fans and analysts, and if the unfortunate streak continues, they will miss the postseason as a result.
However, the team is still hungry to find a solution, as veteran center Taj Gibson indicated the locker room remains strong.
“The main thing is I’m happy that I see guys pissed off about it rather than just joking about it, laughing about it.”
If you want to see what utter failure looks like, go take a look at the New York Giants in East Rutherford. Watching players give up and ownership toss in the towel (with a hopeful turnaround on the way) is far from reality for the Knicks. Whether it be the injection of Cam Reddish or another addition at the deadline, the front office is working hard to piece together a successful team. The culture is already built, they just need the talent to complement it.