Jeff Van Gundy warns Knicks about the struggles they face in the future

new york knicks, tom thibodeau

The New York Knicks are currently riding a high that is unprecedented in the NBA. With the establishment of super teams, a moderately talented team like the Knicks shouldn’t be playing as well as they have been the past few weeks.

Having won 12 of their last 13 games and their latest two performances being fantastic, the Knicks are preparing to take on some of the league’s best opponents on the West Coast this week. It will provide them a quality test ahead of the postseason as the regular campaign dwindles to a close. They currently stand in the fourth seed, having locked in a playoff spot for the first time in years. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and two games ahead of the Miami Heat. However, teams like the LA Clippers and Lakers present significant challenges and could easily derail this budding team full of youth and veteran talent.

Jeff Van Gundy, who helped teach Tom Thibodeau, had a few choice words for the Knicks, who undoubtedly have a tough road ahead.

“You can’t get any more out of a moderately talented team than Tom has,” Van Gundy said. “But you don’t win 60 games or go deep in the playoffs with a moderately talented team. So this is going to be all about the roster, and who you find, and who you pay from this group, and who you move on from.

We will see what this team is made of come the postseason, and rosters with more depth and starting talent turn on the afterburners. The Knicks have steamrolled average to below-average teams, which is expected from great squads, but their only loss of the past few weeks was against the Phoenix Suns, one of the best teams in the NBA.

They felt the wrath of Chris Paul toward the end, and they essentially took Julius Randle out of the contest and limited his production, which severely hurt the Knicks down the stretch. Better teams with quality defenses will do just that against them, meaning they will have to be consistent in all phases.

“A lot of these players are in the last year of their contracts. If you paid them all, would you get the same type of performance or better next year? That’s why, to me, the summer is the hard part.”

Van Gundy has a point, a lot of the current Knicks players are on the final year of their contracts, including Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton.

However, New York has plenty of money to spend next off-season, and while I imagine they will retain some of their key pieces, preferably Rose and Noel, they will also look to pair Randle with another star player. Luckily, they have a few youth players who are developing very nicely in Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett.

Knicks coach Thibodeau: Randle, Ewing cut in the same cloth

More than three decades ago, Patrick Ewing fell into New York Knicks‘ lap with a stroke of luck in the 1985 Draft Lottery.

Ewing’s star had the staying power that made the Knicks relevant in the 90s.

Ewing had been the face of the Knicks for already a decade when Tom Thibodeau, a young and a rising star assistant coach in the NBA, joined Jeff Van Gundy’s coaching staff.

Thibodeau saw up close Ewing’s blue-collar approach to the game. He was there at Van Gundy’s side when the Knicks 1997 season crumbled with Ewing suffering a career-threatening wrist injury. Thibodeau saw how Ewing survived that fall and rebounded, leading the Knicks to a Cinderella run — becoming the first eighth seed to reach the NBA Finals — two years later during the lockout-shortened 1999 season.

More than two decades later, Thibodeau found his way back to New York, this time at the helm of an incredible rise from seven long years of misery.

Thibodeau has brought New York basketball back on the map. He’s made the Knicks relevant again like the Ewing-led teams in the good old days in the 90s.

Thibodeau found his Ewing in Julius Randle, a 6-foot-8 bruiser that has evolved into a sweet shooter and undisputed leader.

Randle’s combination of bully ball and sweet stroke from the perimeter is currently leading a nine-game winning streak, the franchise’s second-best stretch in the last 25 years.

Before Thibodeau took the Knicks coaching job, he laid out his blueprint on The Platform podcast in May last year.

“How you build a culture is you have to sell your vision to your best players and your best players have to sell it to the rest of the team,” Thibodeau said. “Your first meeting is the most important meeting of the year. You have to begin with the end in mind. What wins in the playoffs, these are the things that you have to do, building habits.”

Culture is the buzzword that hasn’t been associated with the Knicks since the 90s. Not even the brief success they’ve had with Carmelo Anthony at the beginning of the last decade had a culture set in place. It was tumultuous at times. Dysfunction blurred the Knicks’ vision.

Thibodeau changed everything right on his first meeting.

He sized up Randle. He came away impressed. And that set the tone for the amazing season the Knicks are having.

Thibodeau was sold on Randle as the team’s best player. He sold his vision to him, and all the rest followed like dominoes.

“It always starts with your best players,” Thibodeau said after the Knicks beat the Toronto Raptors for their league-best ninth straight win. “If they work like that and it sets the tone for the team. He’s relentless. It’s not an accident that he’s having the type of season that he’s having. His commitment — I saw see it from the moment I met him how committed he was in turning this around.”

A year ago, Randle was the most vilified Knicks player. The fan base was ready to move on from him when the Knicks front office took the slam-dunking Obi Toppin with their eighth pick in the Draft.

But as it turned out, the Knicks were not as ready as their fans to move on from Randle. In fact, the new front office led by Leon Rose, who is close to Randle’s CAA agent Aaron Mintz, was planning to hand the keys to the enigmatic forward.

When Knick’s new VP and senior advisor William Wesley aka World Wide Wes, called up Randle to ask his input on the coaching search, it was clear Randle’s words carried weight like the stars in the league.

That seminal moment empowered Randle’s incredible turnaround, which mirrored the Knicks’ success this season. No one saw it coming except for Randle, Thibodeau, and the front office.

Randle asked for a coach who will make him accountable. He got it.

Just like when Randle came to New York, Thibodeau’s return to the Knicks organization was met with mixed reactions after his flameout in his last stop in Minnesota.

But it took two polarizing figures — Randle and Thibodeau — to galvanize a Knicks team that looked lost for years.

“I think it’s critical for success, and I saw that right away,” Thibodeau said when asked to comment on Randle seeking accountability. “I asked him when I first got hired to come in for a few days because I wanted to see where he was conditioning-wise and get to know him a little bit. When I saw the way he came in and I saw the way he worked, and we had our first conversation, I pretty much knew. And I worked him out, so I felt like ‘OK, this guy has a great capacity for work, he has the ability to concentrate, he’s in great shape and you start there. He’s been tremendous. I’ve said it many times: he’s our engine. He’s been a great leader right from the start, and he’s growing. He’s still getting better.”

Thibodeau had seen that kind of leadership before. Ewing was the engine of Van Gundy’s Knicks teams. He was at Van Gundy’s side, having a courtside view of Ewing terrorizing the league. It can be argued he was the best player in the Eastern Conference, not named Michael Jordan during his time. And that also didn’t happen by accident, even though Ewing was gifted with the size and talent.

“I can recall back in the ’90s when I first arrived here as an assistant, the thing that blew me away was Patrick Ewing every morning in the offseason he was the first guy in the building,” Thibodeau said. “He worked like crazy. He got himself ready, and the rest of the team did the same. That’s leadership. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. When you see an example like that it gives you confidence and it gives the team confidence.”

Randle was just five years old when Ewing led the Knicks’ improbable run to the NBA Finals in 1999. Ewing was already a decade removed from the league when Randle rose into a future NBA lottery pick in Dallas.

Randle wasn’t into Ewing. He grew up in Kobe Bryant’s era. He played with the Los Angeles Lakers legend who patterned his game after Jordan, Ewing’s tormentor.

But on his quest for his own greatness, moving from West to East, Randle finds himself having to hold up to the standard of the former Knicks great.

“It’s amazing,” Randle said when he was told of Thibodeau’s Ewing comparison. “I’ve asked him to talk about that before. He kinda gave me insight into what he saw first-hand. I pride myself on my work ethic. The greats, they did that before. The guy I idolized the most, the guy I look up to, is Kobe (Bryant). His work ethic was top-notch. There’s nobody better at putting the time in than him.”

Randle learned from one of the greatest in LA. He also yearns to learn from one of the best players ever to set foot in New York through the lens of Thibodeau.

The Knicks never had the luck of the draw again to find a franchise-changing player like Ewing. Their constant chase for stars that never came made them the league’s laughingstock and meme.

They always settled for the next best available talent but never panned out in New York.

As their targeted stars — Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — shunned them again two summers ago, they had Randle as a consolation.

Consolation was even an exaggeration at that time as media and fans alike frowned upon the three-year, $63-million signing of Randle.

But little did they know, what they had could be their next Ewing.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks need quick fix after second straight loss

New York Knicks, Julius Randle

They say home is where the heart is.

But the New York Knicks never found their heart in another dispiriting loss at home.

On Sunday night, the Denver Nuggets’ superior talent not only overwhelmed but also outworked the Knicks in a 114-89 drubbing at The Garden.

The magic of the Knicks’ strong start to the season is starting to fade as they looked lethargic for the second straight game.

Despite losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Friday, the Knicks entered Sunday night’s game third in opponent field goal percentage (43.4%) and second in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (30.1%).

That vaunted defense, which propelled them to a 5-3 start, was missing at home.

They looked tired and disengaged.

There was nothing they could do with the Nuggets firing on all cylinders. Denver shot 53.6 percent overall and 42.9 percent from deep.

Nikola Jokic led six Nuggets in double figures. The Serbian big man had 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in 30 minutes.

In contrast, the Knicks’ offense continued to sputter. It was the second straight game they put up only 89 points. It would have been acceptable if this was in the grind-it-out 90s.

Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone, who came from the same Jeff Van Gundy/Don Chaney coaching tree as Tom Thibodeau, threw the Knicks off rhythm with a combination of zone and sticky man-to-man defenses.

After a Julius Randle three-pointer put the Knicks ahead briefly, 16-14, the Nuggets countered with a 7-0 run. And they were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Randle and Mitchell Robinson were the only Knicks players who shot above 50 percent.

Randle pumped in 29 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists before sitting out for good in the final 6:56. His fourth assist of the night enabled him to join Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to record at least 200 points, 115 rebounds, and 70 assists in their team’s first 10 games of the season.

Another silver lining for the Knicks was Robinson, who had zero foul in 38 minutes. The young Knicks’ center had 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.

It was just hard to watch the rest of the team, except perhaps an Elfrid Payton scoring outburst in one brief stretch in the third quarter.

Payton finished with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting and five assists. RJ Barrett continued to plummet. He bled for nine points on 13 shots. It marked the second time this season that he’s been held to single-digit scoring.

The Knicks drew little production from their bench. The Nuggets bench badly outscored them, 54-21.

Immanuel Quickley has officially hit the rookie wall with another dud (4 points, 0-4 field goals). Austin Rivers and Kevin Knox could only muster identical six points on 2-of-6 shooting.

The Knicks, as a whole, could only connect on 42.3 percent of their shots. They were a disheartening 6-for-21 from three.

“The challenge right now is we’re not playing well. We’ve got to fix it. We’re in it together. We have to get out of it together,” Thibodeau said postgame.

They barely have 24 hours to figure out everything as they next face the streaking Charlotte Hornets Monday on the road.

The Hornets have won their last three games with Gordon Hayward rediscovering his old All-Star form while third overall pick LaMelo Ball is finally settling down. Ball just became the youngest player in the league history to log in a triple-double in their Saturday win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brooklyn Nets coaching candidates revealed

New York Knicks, Ime Udoka

Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue and Jeff Van Gundy are candidates to become the next head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

Charania says that Nets owner Joe Tsai wants a “full-scale head coaching process to identify the best partner for team ownership, the front office, coaching staff and players.” The process will begin after the Nets’ season concludes.

Kidd played seven and a half seasons with the New Jersey Nets and coached the Brooklyn Nets in the 2013-14 NBA season. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks after one year, where he coached for three and a half seasons. Kidd is in his first season as an assistant with the Lakers.

Udoka was an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs from 2012-19. He joined Philadelphia’s coaching staff in 2019.

Lue was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics from 2011-13, the Clippers in the 2013-14 season and the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2015-16 before being promoted to head coach in January 2016. Lue’s Cavs won the 2016 NBA championship. The head coach was fired six games into the 2018-19 season and rejoined the Clippers coaching staff in 2019.

Van Gundy last coached in the NBA in 2007. He was the head coach of the Houston Rockets from 2003-07. Beforehand, he was an assistant for the New York Knicks from 1989-96. He then became the team’s head coach in 1996, a position he’d hold until 2002.

The Nets parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson and promoted assistant Jacque Vaughn to interim head coach in March.

The Nets, 34-36, are 6-2 under Vaughn and 4-2 in the NBA bubble. They recently clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re playing without Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Wilson Chandler, Nic Claxton, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Walt Disney World.

Tom Thibodeau is studying the New York Knicks roster

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau has been the recurring favorite to land the New York Knicks head-coaching position. A source told Marc Berman of the New York Post that Thibodeau has been “passing away the time poring over Knicks game film as he awaits a possible job offer.”

Berman notes that Thibodeau is a fan of Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson.

It’s known one of the things that most intrigues Thibodeau about coaching the Knicks roster is molding young shot-blocking center Mitchell Robinson into an even better defensive player.

Thibodeau was an assistant for the New York Knicks from 1996-2003, including seven seasons under head coach Jeff Van Gundy. Thibodeau followed Van Gundy to the Houston Rockets in 2003, where he’d reside for four seasons. He was then an assistant for the Boston Celtics under head coach Doc Rivers, which led to him becoming the Chicago Bulls head coach in 2010.

Thibodeau won Coach of the Year honors in 2011 and coached Chicago from 2010-15; he was fired in May 2015. He became the Minnesota Timberwolves head coach in 2016, where he resided for two and a half seasons before being fired in January 2019.

Thibodeau feels his experience working with high-profile coaches has helped him build relationships with players.

“You go back to your past — being around people who have done great things. At Team USA. I’ve worked with Doc Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy, Brendan Malone, not just great head coaches but assistants and great college coaches.

“The thing that stood out being around [Mike Krzyzewski], Jim Boeheim and [Team USA managing director] Jerry Colangelo, these are Hall of Fame guys who still wanted to do great things and be driven and wanted to learn. They don’t want to stay the same.’’

Knicks president Leon Rose and executive vice president/senior basketball advisor William Wesley worked with Thibodeau at Creative Artists Agency.

New York Knicks: Jeff Van Gundy ‘open’ to returning to the bench with ‘right team’

New York Knicks, James Dolan

Former New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy is ‘open’ to returning to the bench.  However, it might not be with the Knicks.

Van Gundy was on Instagram Live chat with former Knicks point guard Charlie Ward.  He said, “I’m definitely open to coaching in the right spot at the right time.”  Basically everything within the organizations as to be in order for Van Gundy to accept a coaching job.  The front office, assistant coaches, have to be on the same page going forward for the future for Van Gundy to even consider that franchise.

The owner will be another factory for Van Gundy to return.  The Knicks owner has been controversial, getting himself in sticky situations that makes him and organization look bad.

Van Gundy said he had job offered over the last twelve years but he didn’t think they were “the right fit.”  While with the Knicks for seven seasons, Van Gundy was 248-172, .590 winning percentage, with the team from 1996-2001.  He led the Knicks to the NBA finals in 1998-99, ultimately losing to the San Antonio Spurs.

Van Gundy has been, by far, the Knicks best head coach in the last two decades.  His teams had some of the best talent minus the early 2010s with Carmelo Anthony and company.  He’s an excellent coach that players can relate to and play hard for.

Although, with all the distractions thanks for the Knicks owner, Van Gundy returning to New York seems unlikely.  The organization is rebuilding in every way possible.  There’s a new regime coming in with new team president Leon Rose and a new front office.  So maybe Rose can sell Van Gundy on being a focal point in the turnaround.

Van Gundy has the coaching knowledge and experience that a franchise needs in a coach.  But with how the organization currently stands, Van Gundy returning to the New York Knicks seems unlikely.

New York Mets: How the New Season Plan Affects the Mets

yankees, New York Mets, Luis Rojas

Monday marks the first day the MLB and the Players Association will meet to discuss plans to restart the 2020 season. The meeting is the only good news about it. There is no love lost between both sides, and there is no guarantee they agree on anything.

Hopefully, the MLB proposes their plan on Tuesday after MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to a representative from each team on Monday. New details from the plan lead with a schedule of around 80 games with the season starting in early July. Teams will play their division rivals and the other teams in their region to limit travel.

Ideally, teams will play in their home ballparks, which helps cut down travel. As reported by us last week, the designated hitter will be universal throughout baseball. The newest information comes in an extended postseason, which includes seven teams from each league.

During this week’s meetings, the biggest dealbreaker comes in the form of pay cuts and health safety for all MLB personnel. In March, the union was against any idea of reducing salaries.

How Does This Affect the Mets?

An 80-games season should push the New York Mets to make the most out of the season. Seth Lugo draws even more consideration to become a starter. Using the projections made earlier this week, he will make no more than 16 starts and using his career averages as a starter, Lugo will throw around 88 innings. Eight more than he pitched as a reliever in 2019, but less than his highest amount.

An 80 game season forces the Mets to make tough decisions with their depth. The depth the Mets have is always a good problem to have, but balancing it out is tricky. Dominic Smith, Jed Lowrie, and Yoenis Cespedes are all projected to come off the bench. If healthy, one will slide into the DH role, but all three have proven to be good bats when healthy.

Thanks to versatile players like Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and most of their outfielders, Manager Luis Rojas can mix and match. Despite getting two weeks to get back into playing shape, most players will need the first couple weeks of the regular season to find their groove as well.

The short season increases the urgency to win quickly. Even with an extended playoff format, no team wants to play in a one-game playoff to decide their fate. The Mets also draw the most competitive division in baseball as the Pirates and Orioles seem like the only teams who are lighter competition.

The depth the Mets have is as good as any in baseball, but their unproven manager has to show he knows how to slide each piece into the perfect place. As we saw with Mickey Callaway, a good manager is a difference between a failed season and a World Series victory.

Tom Thibodeau needs to change his style for the New York Knicks job

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

According to incoming new team president, Leon Rose, the New York Knicks are in the market for a new head coach.  There are three candidates who have been linked to the job.  Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Tom Thibodeau.

There have been reports that Thibodeau is a ‘serious candidate’ and he ‘can taste’ the Knicks job.  But is Thibodeau the best person for the job?

There’s no getting around it that Thibodeau is an old school coach.  He tends to lean towards veteran players over younger ones.  This was apparent with his short-lived tenure as president and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Thibs had plenty of young talent, Karl-Anthony Town Zach LaVine and Jimmy Butler, to work with and he greatly underachieved.

The Knicks are young as well, so what makes fans think that he’ll do better with this young group.  Even when Thibodeau tried to adapt to the younger generation, he ran his young players into the ground.  There was no happy medium to his coaching style and players ultimately got hurt.

Thibodeau’s style in Minnesota was more one-on-one ball than team orientated.  The Knick have enough problems falling back into their old ways with one-on-one ball.  However, with Mike Miller, there has been more offensive schemes and ball movement as compared to Tom Thibodeau and David Fizdale’s systems.

For Thibodeau to be a good hire for the Knicks, he’ll need to change his style and adapt with the game.  It’ll be hard for him since his style seems to be embedded in stone.

The New York Knicks are rebuilding.  They don’t need a old-school coach who doesn’t want to change his coaching style.  Unless Thibs has changed it and is keeping it quite, the new front office has to consider all options.

As of yesterday, their are rumblings that Leon Rose’s could be introduced this week as new team president.  As well, more rumblings of Thibs ‘90%’ likely to be the new head coach.

Jay Wright the next coach of the New York Knicks?

You can add Jay Wright to the short list of possible candidates to be the next head coach of the New York Knicks.  A league source says, according to Forbes Adam Zagoria.

Others that have been linked to the Knicks are Jeff Van Gundy, of course, Mark Jackson and Tom Thibodeau.

Wright didn’t comment this time around when asked about the Knicks job.  However, he did when being linked to the job when the team went with with Jeff Hornacek in 2016.  Ultimately, Wright just didn’t want to leave Villanova.

While Wright is an above-average college coach, transitioning to the NBA will be difficult.  Last season John Beilein, went from Michigan, a top program, to Cleveland.  The Cavaliers are in the processing of rebuilding so Beilein has a tough task at hand.

If Wright were to be chosen by the Knicks, his path will be similar to Beilein.  It won’t be easy since the Knicks are also rebuilding.  Plus, the Knicks are in a worse spot than the Cavailers.

The New York Knicks need a coach with experience.  Not saying Wright doesn’t have experience but it’s at the college level. The NBA is a different animal.  Coaching professionals is a lot harder and complicated than teenagers.

The 3 coaches, Van Gundy, Jackson and Thibodeau, all have the experience with professionals that the Knicks need.  They need a non non-sense coach with the ability to control the locker room and hold players accountable.

Mike Miller has done that to an extent and has done well with the talent available to him. While he may be doing an above-average with the Knicks, they need someone who’s going to command more of the team.

New front office for the New York Knicks next year could change everything

New York Knicks, James Dolan

The New York Knicks need a change.  A change for the better.  With all of the commotion of the trade deadline, the Knicks have begun to make that change.

The Knicks will bring in CAA agent Leon Rose as the team’s next president.  Before that news broke, the organization hired Steve Stoute, a music executive and the founder of the ad agency Translation.  Stoute will help ‘re-brand’ the Knicks.  The team doesn’t need a re-brand.  They’re still one of the biggest names in the league but the way things have been going, anything helps.

With those two exciting hires for the Knicks, there could be one more looming.  Incoming team president, Leon Rose, reportedly wants to bring back one of the most beloved Knick coachesJeff Van Gundy.  While this is just a rumor for now, it would be the best case scenario for the team.

Those three individuals could change the course completely for the New York Knicks.  While it won’t be quick or easy but the organization can’t get any worse.

All three are very well-respected which is something they Knicks haven’t had in a while.  Well, David Fizdale was and still is respected around the league he was a little to buddy-buddy with his players.  He even admitted yesterday his flaws when leading the Knicks.

Rose, Stoute and Van Gundy gained recognition in their own way whether that’s through music, agent-player relationships or coaching.  Whatever it may be the Knicks needs a lot of fresh new voices and these could be them.

Bringing back Van Gundy would take a lot.  There’s always been rumors of him returning to coaching especially to the Knicks but, again, they’re all rumors.  He has one of the best gigs going currently being the lead calling games and he’s very good at it.  The stress of bringing the Knicks back to life would take a pretty penny.  However, Rose and ‘World Wide Wes’ might do whatever it takes.