Bullock’s injury forces Knicks to shake up starting lineup

Reggie Bullock of the New York Knicks

As the games keep on coming, the injury bug also keeps on hitting the New York Knicks.

Starter Reggie Bullock will not play Monday night in Charlotte due to a sore right hip, the Knicks announced.

Bullock has been averaging 28.7 minutes producing 8.5 points on 33.3 percent on threes, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.

His outside shooting and defense will be sorely missed as Tom Thibodeau’s wing rotation is getting thinner.

The timing couldn’t have come at the worst time with the Knicks in the midst of a two-game losing streak. They have their plate full this week with a four-game schedule, including Monday night’s match against the streaking Hornets.

Bullock joins the Knicks’ injury list that also includes rookie Obi Toppin (strained right calf), Frank Ntilikina (sprained right knee), Alec Burks (sprained left ankle), and new signee Taj Gibson who is still undergoing health protocols before joining the team.

The Knicks are expected to bring Austin Rivers up to the starting unit to replace Bullock. But there’s also a chance that Kevin Knox will get the starting nod if Thibodeau opts to have a veteran leader on the floor for his second unit.

Meanwhile, Toppin is making progress with his recovery, although he hasn’t been cleared for contact.

“Right now, it’s 1-on-0, with some movement, jumping, change of direction, and that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said last Sunday.

“Then he’ll progress to 2-on-2, 3-on-3, and get to the point where he can get to 5-on-5 and get through practice,” he continued.

Toppin hasn’t seen action since the season opener.

Burks, on the other hand, is closing to re-evaluation later this week. The veteran wingman had been on a walking boot since Wednesday last week. He was initially given a 7-10 day timetable before he can be re-evaluated.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Randle too much to handle for Cavs as Knicks post 2nd straight win

Julius Randle reported to the New York Knicks’ training camp in great shape.

Now he‘s reaping the benefits in what is shaping up to be a career year.

The Knicks rode on their defense and Randle’s triple-double to deal the Cleveland Cavaliers their first loss of the season, 95-86, at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Triple-double special

With Kevin Love missing the game due to a right calf strain, Randle proved to be too much to handle for the Cavaliers.

Randle played 44 minutes and produced 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double and first as a Knick.

He started strong and finished stronger.

Randle set the tone on the offensive end with 14 points and five assists in the opening quarter as the Knicks raced to a 29-15 lead. Then the seven-year veteran put the exclamation point with a pullup jumper in the last 23.7 seconds.

Defending the 3

The Cavaliers averaged 122.3 points entering the game, but the Knicks’ stingy defense held them down to their lowest output in four starts. For the second straight game, the Knicks have limited their opponents to just seven triples.

Clearly, Tom Thibodeau is starting to affect a real change within the Knicks.

And it all starts with Randle being eager to become a better leader.

“They challenged me going into the offseason to come back a better player,’’ Randle said postgame.

Last season saw Randle thrown into a leadership role for the first time in his career. Randle didn’t handle it well. The lack of spacing and the dysfunction within the organization exacerbated the situation.

But Thibodeau’s arrival has ushered in a career revival for Randle.

“I’m going to put that pressure on myself as well to challenge myself and get better every year. Last year was a great learning experience for me. But this year, I’m coming back a better player and came back in great shape,” Randle continued. “And that’s just part of the culture we’re building. We’re competing and not backing down from anybody.’’

Culture of accountability

The culture of accountability that Thibodeau has brought with him is beginning to push the envelope. Suddenly, there is hope.

“I think the first part is [Randle] came into camp in great shape,’’ Thibodeau said. “I saw what type of shape he was in, so I knew he was highly motivated. So I think that’s a big advantage for him. I also think he has a pretty good understanding of his teammates and what their strengths are. And he’s playing unselfishly.’’

After his 11-assist effort, Randle has hiked his assist-average to a career-high 6.3, more than doubling his 3.1 average the past two seasons.

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Reggie Bullock, often a recipient of a Randle kick-out pass, had 17 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting.

The constant ball movement that Thibodeau has been preaching has given the Knicks open looks and rhythm shots. Through four games, they are leading the league in three-point accuracy at 45.9 percent, a stunning turnaround after being the fourth-worst last season.

Against the Cavaliers, they made 14 of 25 3s. Randle was 4-for-4 while Elfrid Payton knocked down two as he continued his stellar play.

Finding consistency

Payton followed up his epic performance against the Milwaukee Bucks with another brilliant all-around game. He tallied 14 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists as he begins to settle down with the starting role at the backcourt.

Meanwhile, Frank Ntilikina was productive off the bench as Payton’s chief backup. The Frenchman was all over the court, putting together five points, three boards, two dimes, and two steals in 16 minutes.

RJ Barrett had another rough shooting night (4-of-15) but still found a way to contribute 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Mitchell Robinson also held his own against Andre Drummond, putting up nine points, 10 rebounds, and two blocked shots.

The Knicks were missing five players forcing Thibodeau to shorten his rotation to eight with his starters playing between 31 minutes (Robinson) and 44 minutes (Randle).

Rookies Immanuel Quickley (hip pointer), Obi Toppin (right calf strain), Omari Spellman (sore right knee), Austin Rivers (sore groin), and Dennis Smith Jr. (left quad contusion) remained on the sickbay.

Turnover woes

While the Knicks were red-hot, there were some anxious moments, too, as fatigue took its toll. The Knicks had to buck 25 turnovers to pull off the victory in the opener of their four-game road trip. Two eight-second shot clock violations by the Knicks enabled the Cavaliers to come within seven in the closing minutes.

Randle, who accounted for nine errors, atoned himself by producing the first 20-point triple-double in the Knicks history since Carmelo Anthony in 2012. That season also marked the last time the Knicks advanced to the playoffs.

What’s next?

The Knicks will continue their road trip in Tampa Bay, the temporary home of the Toronto Raptors. The Knicks will go for a third straight win against the still winless Raptors on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

3 moves the New York Knicks have interest in for the off-season

With the NBA season in limbo, the New York Knicks rumors are starting to circulate.  The newest one is the likelihood of the team picking up Reggie Bullock’s contract for next season.

Add this rumor to the other Knicks ones thus far.  One’s that are already swirling are interest in signing free-agent big man Christian Wood and bringing back Maurice ‘Moe’ Harkless.

While these are only a few, these aren’t big headlines for next season.  It could be give fans that odd feeling that the lineup could be similar to begin next season despite their high upcoming draft pick.  Hopefully there’s a lot of changes that’ll happen in Leon Rose’s first season.

As much as Knicks fans might dislike the rumors of the team going after the biggest names in free agency, at least it’s something. Now we know that the season isn’t over but in a time with no sports, fans need something to talk about.  Resigning players that have no future with the team doesn’t move the needle.

However, this could be a good thing. Rose said that he’ll be move behind the scenes when it comes to Knicks.  So these rumors could be click-bait.  The team is always in the news whether it’s good or bad.  So, being quieter and behind the scenes could be for the best.  Just got to hope that the Knicks owner falls in suit with taking a more quite approach.

The Knicks are always linked to the biggest names in the NBA whether they’re partially true or not.  We all know about last off-season with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.  However, it seems like a good move considering how much of a headache those two can be despite their talent.  A few months go, the Giannis Antetokounmpo rumors were hot and that’ll start again after next season.

The interest in Christian Wood makes the most sense.  Wood is has freakish athleticism for a big man who can shoot from behind the arc.  He’ll also be an upgrade defensively which would pair nicely with Mitchell Robinson.  Bringing back Harkless is a possibility since he’s young but Bullock is a toss up.  Leon Rose will have his hands full in his first season with the New York Knicks.

The future of the New York Knicks still has no clear direction

New York Knicks, James Dolan

The New York Knicks started somewhat on the right path when it came to drafting talent.  In free agency, they were able to add a solid combination of youth and veteran players.  It was clear that they were on the right path to build something.

However, of recent, it appears to be very unclear the direction Mike Miller and the organization wants to take.  Do they want to begin to develop their youth for the future?  Or, do they want to continue playing veteran players when the playoffs are out of reach.  The Knicks currently sit 7 games out of the 8th seed.

For the moment, it seems like the Knicks are content with playing the veterans over the young players.  They’re 12-32 on the season and that’s with mostly playing the older guys.  That should be a sign that the year is lost when the vets aren’t performing.  It’s time to play the kids.

The only thing the organization is going is making their fans more angry.  They’ve been angry since 2013, the Knicks last playoff appearance.  Continuing to play the older players is this meaningless game is only adding fuel to the fire.

We’ve seen this story before with the Knicks and it’s extremely frustrating.  One example, Jarrett Jack.  He played over Frank Ntilikina and Daymean Dotson in 2017 which stalled their development.  A lot of that can be said about this year too.

Taj Gibson is starting over Mitchell Robinson.  Reggie Bullock is starting over Daymean Dotson.  Elfrid Payton, while young, is starting over Frank Ntilikina.  But Ntilikina brings more defense to the table which is a struggle for this team.  And Kevin Knox’s minutes are never enough.

Also, Marcus Morris, 30-years-old, is the Knicks leading scorer but due to his age it’s unlikely he’s in their future plans.  Those ‘future plans’ are very blurry.

The New York Knicks need to figure out what’a best for their future.  As of right now, playing veteran players over the younger ones doesn’t seem to serve a purpose.  They’re taking way minutes and any future strides they might make.  It’s not their fault, it’s the coaching and the front office to blame.

New York Knicks need to give Kevin Knox more minutes

New York Knicks, Kevin Knox

New York Knicks aren’t seeing the progression in lottery pick Kevin Knox like they should.  Knox’s minutes went down with the addition of multiple free agents this off-season.  This season his minutes have dropped from 28.8 to 19.4.

The Knicks added Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington.  Randle and Morris are the main options when it comes to scoring.  In his rookie season, Knox was just that along with Tim Hardaway Jr., after Kristaps Porzingis went down.  A tough assignment for a rookie.  He averaged 11.2 points at a very below-average 37% shooting.

When drafted, Knox was suppose to become a scoring threat.  He’s young, still growing and his game has a lot of upside.  The Knicks didn’t draft him to ride the bench.  However, the newly acquired players are making it difficult for Knox to grow.

At the beginning of the season, Knox showed signs of progression.  He was working in the off-season to be more controlled when driving and sharpening his decision making.  His shot appeared to improve but under former coach David Fizdale Knox remained one dimensional.

Now under interim coach Mike Miller, Knox is still under the ‘experimental phase’.  Miller is trying to make Knox become more than just a shooter.  He wants Knox to work on his cutting, dribble, etc.  The 2018 Knicks no. 9 lottery pick has improved his cutting as, at least once a game, he’s seen flying through the air for an alley-oop.

Currently the New York Knicks sit at 10-26 and dead last in the Eastern Conference.  Miller insists that all young players are getting the proper amount of time to grow.  Fans would beg to differ.  Knox needs to be getting more minutes if he is to properly grow into the player the organization wants him to be.

It’s understandable that his minutes would decline if the team was in contention with the new players, however that isn’t the case.

Knox hasn’t played over 20 minutes since December 23rd against Washington.  A young second-year player cannot properly grow or develop if they don’t have reasonable time to do so.  The team clearly isn’t turning around their season around so a decision needs to be made on whether to go with the younger players, again, or continue the course.

Things may be different for Knox after the trade deadline.  The Knicks could deal veteran talent to make room for more minutes for their younger players.  We will know the beginning of February.

New York Knicks start this decade off with a great team win

New York Knicks, Frank Ntilikina

The New York Knicks are officially undefeated this decade.  The Knicks spoiled the return of one of the teams greatest players, Carmelo Anthony, with a 117-93 victory over the Portland Trailblazers.

Anthony had his fair share of historic nights in the Garden.  His amazing performance against the Boston Celtics on Christmas day.  Scoring the most points in single game in Knicks history, 62, against the then Charlotte Bobcats, the list goes on.  However, it was someone else’s turn to have the Garden lights all on them.  Mitchell Robinson went 11-11 from the floor, tying the franchise record without a miss.  He went off and shows why he is a major piece for the future.

This victory was a statement win for the Knicks coming into 2020.  They’ve had their struggles to begin the season with their play, front office, coaching etc.  But this win the Knicks give the fans hope that they can turn their season around.

Making the playoffs seems to still be out of reach despite only being 5 games from the 8th seed.  But the team has been playing well under interim coach Mike Miller, who has more wins, 6, then former coach David Fizdale to begin this season, 4.

There’s something to be said about how the players are responding to Miller and his coaching.  The team appears to be playing more like a team and utilizing the pick-and-roll, which is what they should be doing.  It was clear that it worked last night as it was the Mitchell Robinson show.

It seemed like every possession was a pick-and-roll leading to a monstrous alley-oop.  Not only was Robinson slamming it home but Frank Ntilikina had his moment too.  He had a dunk that got the crowded into the game even more and when he shows emotion,  you know things are going well.

It continues to go well for the Knicks and Julius Randle as he is finally starting to play up to his potential.  He recorded back-to-back double-doubles in this 3-game win streak.  Staying away from isolation basketball has bee the key to his recent progression.

The New York Knicks started off 2020 with a bang.  They defeated a team that is contending for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Why they make not make the playoffs, showing progression as a team for the future may be better than a playoff berth.

New York Knicks: Is Kevin Knox finally ready to break out during the 2019-20 season?

New York Knicks, Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett

The focal point for the New York Knicks this upcoming season will undoubtedly be third overall pick from the 2019 NBA draft, RJ Barrett. The Duke star has plenty of qualities that can translate over to the NBA, but the Knicks will be focused on extracting the most value and helping him reach his potential.

The veteran signings will also be instrumental in his growth and allowing Barrett to succeed on the court early on in his career. However, the Knicks cannot forget about their first-round pick from last year, Kevin Knox.

The New York Knicks will challenge their youth:

The second-year small forward will not be gifted playing time this season like he was in his rookie campaign. This year, he’ll be forced to compete against the veterans for minutes.

After missing out on superstars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Knicks utilized their cap space on second-tier free agents like Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, and Reggie Bullock.

Most aren’t giving the Knicks the benefit of the doubt to be a competing team this season. Their defensive game is still shallow, and their offense is unproven, so guaranteeing any success is very premature.

Kevin Knox is one of the hopefuls for the organization, though. After a historically lousy rookie season averaging 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists and 75 games last year, he’s looking to elevate his abilities and show he can be a force moving forward. Knox also understands that he is no longer a rookie and must be held accountable for his performances.

“That’s going to be great for us,” Knox said, via Steve Popper of Newsday. “To be able to compete, I don’t think anybody’s guaranteed no starting lineup, no minutes, none of that . . . Everyone is gonna have to earn their minutes, earn their position. I think that’s going to be great for us going into training camp and competing. Nobody’s got a starting spot. Everyone’s got to fight to earn their minutes and earn their position.”

I believe that the increase in competition and pressure will help Knox find the best version of himself and reach his potential. An increase in jump shot efficiency wouldn’t hurt either.

New York Knicks: RJ Barrett eyeing “Rookie of the Year” award for 2019

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

While the early favorite for the 2019-20 NBA rookie of the year award is New Orleans Pelican, Zion Williamson, New York Knicks rookie, RJ Barrett shouldn’t be left out of the conversation.

New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett stated:

(Rookie of the Year) is definitely important. It is something I’ve been thinking about since I was a kid, so I thought the only way to do that is to work hard.

Barrett, who was selected third overall in the most recent draft by the Knicks, averaged 22.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 13.6 rebounds in his lone season with Duke. As the secondary option to Williamson with the Blue Devils, Barrett wasn’t able to fully show his potential. Without Zion taking over college basketball, Barrett would’ve likely been the unanimous first overall pick.

However, he fell several slots to a team that has prioritized building through the draft and youth players. The Knicks were unable to bring in any superstars this off-season, but they signed several veterans in Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, Elfrid Payton, and Bobby Portis.

While none of those names stand out like Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, they will help the Knicks youth develop and refine their skills over the next season. Expecting the Knicks to be a playoff-contending team might be a stretch, but if Barrett can live up to his potential and produce enough to be considered for the Rookie of the Year award, they could be in a position to steal a spot in the postseason.

RJ Barrett will be a crucial cog in regards to the offensive production for the team, but the Knicks cannot rely on him to carry the squad in games. A priority moving forward should be to develop the rookies so they can play alongside potential signings in the future. The 6-foot-7 forward will hope to continue his offensive dominance in the NBA, but adjusting to the physicality and speed of professional players will be a challenge. Luckily, he has the mentors to help him reach his potential.

New York Knicks to rely on two impactful rotational players next season

New York Knicks, Damyean Dotson

While the New York Knicks headlines have been crowded with names like RJ Barrett and Julius Randle, some of the younger, rotational players have gotten lost in the shuffle.

The Knicks signed a flurry of veterans this offseason to help supplement their lack of experience and average age being below the drinking limit. However, the leadership and knowledge they gained from bringing in options like Randle and Marcus Morris will prove to be beneficial, especially for the youth foundation the Knicks are keen on building through.

Rotational players like Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson might benefit the most, though, as they will not hold the pressures of being a starter. Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Mitchell Robinson will all bear that responsibility, and it could be overwhelming for the trio.

What do the New York Knicks have in Trier and Dotson?

Trier and Dotson, two of the more promising young players for New York, will develop behind the scenes and play specific roles next season under head coach David Fizdale. The competition that has been built throughout the roster will ultimately help the progression of the team and expedite the process of their refinement.

Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, and Barrett will all compete for playing time along with Trier and Dotson. The guard position will be packed full of capable players, some more talented than others, but it’s who can produce the most that will see more time on the court.

Trier, one of the young offensive studs for the Knicks, is developing his three-point shot, a factor of his game that can be influential and important moving forward. He shot .394 percent from beyond the arch last year on 2.1 attempts per game. His success has convinced the coaching staff that he should be taking more shots from three. His offensive qualities should see him earn more playing time, but his defense needs work.

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Dotson, on the other hand, is more of a utility player, capable of playing offensive and defense at an average level. It’s essential to have rotational players that can be utilized in different scenarios and help at any moment.

Dotson elevated his offense last season, seeing a jump from 4.1 points to 10.7 per game from 2017-to-2018. He is an ‘okay’ on-ball defender, but he developed into a decent shooter, knocking down 36.8% of his 342 attempts last season. The reality is, both Trier and Dotson can be good players for the Knicks, but they’re facing an uphill battle for minutes.

New York Knicks: Where does Damyean Dotson fit into the Knicks’ plans?

New York Knicks, Damyean Dotson

The New York Knicks have a lot of guards fighting for playing time this season, finding out how to utilize them all will be tricky.

One of the guards that played a big role once Kristaps Porzingis was traded was Damyean Dotson. ‘Dot’ was geared up to have an even bigger role for this upcoming season. The second-round pick from the 2017 NBA Draft signed a three-year contract that was non-guaranteed for the 2019-20 campaign. The date came and went for the Knicks to let him go and save cap-space, as they elected to keep him around for at least one more season.

However, with the acquisition of RJ Barrett, Reggie Bullock, and Elfrid Payton, Dotson’s playing time could take a hit.

How did Damyean Dotson perform for the New York Knicks in 2019?

Last season, Dotson averaged 27.5 minutes per game. But, after the Porzingis trade, his production increased. He averaged 10.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 40 starts.

The Knicks were relativity bad on the defensive front. They did not have a lockdown defender in their arsenal. Some may consider Frank Ntilikina and some take Dotson. The 25-year-old was a very good defender for the Knicks, stretching the floor and knocking down some timely 3’s when called upon. He shot 37% from beyond the arc.

Dotson will have to fight for minutes like he’s done ever since he came into the league. He does have the defensive ability to require more playing time over other guards, but his offensive production needs to improve if he wishes to steal playing time away from the other options.

As long as he gets more quality time like he got last season while being lockdown defender that can pop 3’s in transition, he’ll earn the playing time he deserves.