Lofty expectations, Thunder knock down Knicks

The weight of expectations has slowed down the rampaging New York Knicks.

Following a three-game win streak and a surprising 5-3 start, the Knicks enjoyed the national spotlight. They entered Friday night’s game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder as odds-on favorites for the first time this season.

The result was a disastrous 101-89 loss, a growing pain reminder, as the Thunder caught the Knicks’ defense napping after shaking off a sluggish start.

The Knicks led at the start, but there were ominous signs early on that it would be a long night.

Julius Randle, who is playing like an All-NBA player to start the season, ran into early foul trouble. He was held scoreless in the opening half.

Without Randle, whom Thibodeau referred to as their engine, their offense became stagnant.

The Knicks had only 19 assists and shot just 36 percent from the field.

The Thunder exploited the the Knicks’ woes and took the lead for good in the third quarter.

The Knicks, though, teased another fourth-quarter comeback when Austin Rivers beat the buzzer with a triple to cut the Thunder’s lead to six after 36 minutes of action.

But there were no Rivers heroics nor Knicks comeback this time. Only a hard slap in the face.

“Once we gave up the lead and we got behind, I think we tried to get out of it individually. I think the intentions were good, but we just went about it the wrong way,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said postgame.

Thibodeau pulled out Mitchell Robinson (6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks) in the fourth quarter, who he said was not feeling great. His plan to go small ball and generate some offense backfired as the Thunder repeatedly attacked the paint.

After a horrible 21 percent start from the field, the Thunder took command by shooting 63 percent in the next three quarters.

As the game wore on, the Knicks’ defense continued to loosen up with their every miss.

The pair of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (25 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) and Hamidou Diallo (23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists) led the Thunder. They were the better ex-Kentucky players on Friday night at The Garden.

The Knicks’ own Kentucky alumni played sub-par with Randle limited to just 18 points while Kevin Knox (3-9), rookie Immanuel Quickley (1-9), and the returning Nerlens Noel (0-1) struggled to find their rhythm all night. Even RJ Barrett’s shooting struggles from the perimeter continued. He had 19 points on 21 shots.

The Knicks appeared poise to coast to an easy win at home when they built an early 17-7 lead. But the Thunder quickly erased their lead. And the Knicks played with fire.

“In this league, as soon as you start feeling too good about yourself, you’re going to get knocked down,” Thibodeau said.

The Friday night beatdown at The Garden was a cautionary tale for these Knicks after a fairy tale start to this season.

There will be more challenges ahead, far more formidable than this one, but Thibodeau hopes his young team will continue to grow and treat this as a wake-up call.

“From top to bottom, we didn’t get it done. We’re capable of doing much better than we did,” Thibodeau said.

We’ll soon find out when the Knicks play three games in the next four days, beginning Sunday against the Denver Nuggets, last season’s Western Conference finalist.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Chris Paul trade offer on Knicks’ table; Bobby Marks believes he’s not a ‘salary dump’

New York Knicks, chris paul

Chris Paul and the New York Knicks have been linked to each other ever since James Dolan hired the Oklahoma City All-Star guard’s former agent at Creative Artists Agency, Leon Rose, as his new team president.

The rumor mill heated up on Monday when Jonathan Macri of the Knicks Film School reported that the 35-year old Paul prefers to wind up his career either in New York or Los Angeles.

“I’ve been told by a league source that Chris Paul prefers his next basketball home to be either in LA or NY (Los Angeles is where he resides full time) and that has created some modicum of leverage in the ongoing negotiations between the sides. I’m also told that there is a deal on the table that is comfortable from Sam Presti’s perspective, and the ball is in Leon Rose’s court,” Macri wrote in his newsletter.

The Thunder is believed to have been shopping Paul since he was acquired from the Houston Rockets a year ago in the Russell Westbrook trade. But league executives thought, at that time, that Paul’s massive contract had been the biggest stumbling block in negotiations.

Even the Knicks reportedly turned down a Houston Rockets’ offer centering on Paul before he was shipped to the Thunder. The Knicks’ stance has since changed upon Rose’s arrival.

Paul is owed $85 million over the next two years — $41 million next season (almost 38 percent of the salary cap if it stays flatly at $109 million) and has a $44 million player option the following year.

The Knicks are one of the only four teams with massive cap space to absorb such a contract.

The Thunder are motivated to unload Paul’s contract after they had the third-highest payroll in the league last season. They have recently parted ways with long-time coach Billy Donovan signaling a rebuilding will soon hit the ground running in Oklahoma.

Ian Begley of SNY earlier reported that the Knicks are willing to absorb undesirable contracts to acquire an asset. Still, Paul, despite his age and massive salary, doesn’t belong in that category, according to ESPN’s Front Office Insider Bobby Marks.

The former Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager-turned NBA insider believes the Knicks won’t acquire extra assets if they trade for Paul.

“I see teams having to give up something of value,” Marks told Empire Sports Media. “He’s not a salary dump.”

Presti is banking on Paul’s solid showing last season as leverage in the negotiation table.

Paul led the Thunder to the first round of the playoffs, pushing the Rockets to seven games. The 10-time NBA All-Star averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game in 70 games, the most he’s played in a season since 2015-16.

Early in September, a rumored trade involving the Knicks’ young players and future picks has been lined up according to Heavy.com’s Scoop B.

 

Rose and his front office have to think hard about how much they are willing to pay to acquire an All-Star who is about to enter the tail end of his career.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo