It was only a year ago that the New York Knicks were an undesirable destination for free agents and big names. However, in just one season, theyâ€™ve turned their entire organization around from the bottom up.
Elevating the culture and creating a winning environment has sparked players’ interest around the league, which led to a successful free agency for the team this off-season, bringing in Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, two players who significantly increase the talent on the roster.
It is clear that the Knicks have restored their image, and two of their own players back up that assessment. Veteran center Taj Gibson, who spent the second half of the season last year with New York, signed a two-year extension to stay with the team. While Gibson understands he might not be a priority on the floor, heâ€™s looking to serve as a mentor and help the team in any way possible. But his comments on hitting free agency and his desire to stay with the Knicks are eye-opening.
â€œIt was real frustrating, but it was a good frustrating,â€Â Gibson said of the free agency experience.Â â€œBut at the same time, I knew I made the right decision. Money doesnâ€™t move me, I just wanted to be a Knick.â€
Comparably, All-Star power forward Julius Randle signed a four-year extension this off-season, and similar to Gibson referenced his desire to be a Knick over the amount of money heâ€™s making. The team has created an atmosphere that players want to be a part of, rather than cashing in and passing on the opportunity to build a franchise. The Knicks are not only rewarding loyal players, but they are also encouraging them to do whatâ€™s best for the team and not themselves as an individual.
â€œThe money was one thing, but for me, it was more about the situation as far as my happiness, the basketball situation, my family, just being stable and being in New York and really just continuing to build this thing up,â€ Randle said Friday. â€œWhen I signed here two years ago, this was my vision, to be able to lock in something long term and build something from the ground up. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing. All hands on deck.â€
A culture shift has been a long time in the making, and the Knicks are finally pointing in the right direction. With plenty of veteran talent on the roster and young players to complement, this upcoming season could prove to be just as exciting, if not more, than the 2020-21 campaign, which surprised even the most pessimistic fans.