New York Knicks: Tom Thibodeau’s culture change seemed crazy at first, but it’s working

Alexander Wilson

The New York Knicks might only be 2-2 on this season, but a culture change is noticeable. New head coach Tom Thibodeau has entirely overhauled the mentality within the organization, implementing a win-now strategy that has brought the best out of a group of players that doesn’t seem to fit together.

Ultimately, they were puzzle pieces that hadn’t yet been formulated into a complete puzzle, but Thibodeau is slowly piecing things together and seeing the fruits of his labor. Over the past two games, the Knicks have beaten strong teams in the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, and they are gearing up to face off against another formidable opponent in the Toronto Raptors.

The New York Knicks are finally getting the most out of their players:

So far this season, power forward Julius Randle has led the group in points, averaging 24.8 points per game, 10.5 rebounds, but has turned the ball over quite a lot with 5.0 per contest. Cutting down on his turnovers will allow the Knicks to retain the ball and open up more shots, but that number indicates a change mentality.

Thibodeau wants to spread the floor and open up clean shots for his players, and Randle is passing the ball more now than he ever has. Randle is averaging 7.5 assists per game, which leads the team by a large margin. Only the Elfrid Payton is behind him with 4.5 assists, attesting to Randle’s change in mentality and fit into this Thibodeau’s scheme.

“There is a mentality shift,’’ said one NBA executive who has spoken to the Knicks’ brass, per the NY Post. “Thibs wants to win every game and he’s selling that to the players and they are buying into it so far.’’

Even young Kevin Knox has noticed a change, considering he has seen several coaches over the past few seasons since joining New York.

“He’s really been teaching, from Day 1, getting to the basket, making the right reads and kicking out,’’ Kevin Knox said. “You got a layup or dunk, you finish but if the defense collapses, make the right read and share the game. That’s why a lot of guys are getting open shots.’’

“We’re coming off two good wins,’’ Knox said. “Coach Thibs really has us playing hard defensively, offensively, sharing the ball. I think we’re looking good and we want to keep the pace going and playing together.’’

For Thibodeau, it is all about the defense, and the Knicks showed off that part of their game, limiting an offensively stout Cleveland team to just 86 points this week.

“Coach demands for every player to go out and play the right way,’’ Reggie Bullock said. “I think he let that be known from Day 1 in camp that we’re not going to force shots. We’re going to share the ball, As long as you’re playing hard on offense, on defense, moving the ball, every player on this team is going to get a chance.”

It’s all about team basketball for Thibodeau, playing off one another and opening up shots. Nobody holds onto the ball too long, waiting until the defense collapses to kick it out to the wings. The system has worked well so far, and the Knicks are looking to build on their momentum against a tough Toronto team, which would hand them their third win of the season and really prove to the rest of the NBA that they are no joke.