‘It’s like breakfast!’ RJ Barrett credits teammates for improved shooting

new york knicks, rj barrett

New York Knicks‘ second-year wing RJ Barrett’s chip on his shoulder is getting bigger by the day.

All-Rookie Team snub.

ESPN’s Best 25 under 25 snub.

Anthony Edwards’ mockery of his missed game-winning shot.

But each time Barrett is getting snubbed and mocked, he rises.

The 20-year old Barrett has blossomed to become the New York Knicks’ No. 2 option behind All-Star Julius Randle from a questionable third overall selection after his uneven rookie season.

“My game speaks for itself,” Barrett said Friday ahead of his matchup with last year’s Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. “You know you can go and look at my numbers and our team’s success. It doesn’t really matter as long as I keep getting better as a player every day. I’ll be happy.”

For the first time in the last seven years, the Knicks are playing meaningful games this late in the season, and a big part of that is because of Barrett’s much-improved play.

His numbers have all gone up.

Entering Friday’s game, he’s averaging 17.5 points on 45/38/74 shooting splits with 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists against only two turnovers in 34 minutes.

Last season, he averaged 14.3 points on 40/32/61 shooting splits with 5.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists against 2.2 turnovers in 30.4 minutes.

His questionable jump shot has become a vaunted weapon in his arsenal.

“During the summer, I made little tweaks and adjustments, but I’m just getting reps,” Barrett said.

But he was quick to add: “All credit to my teammates. You see, Julius gets in there. Sometimes he’s halfway into a shot and kicks it out, and I get wide-open shots, wide-open looks. I mean, when you get wide-open looks like that from your teammates, it’s kind of like just breakfast.”

Since the All-Star break, Barrett is averaging 20 points on 47/44/75 shooting splits.

According to NBA.com tracking data, his three-point attempts increased from 3.3 to 4.3 per game, with two of those attempts coming from a Randle pass. During the same stretch, Barrett has been the top recipient of Randle’s playmaking with 19.5 percent frequency resulting in 11.9 passes and 2.3 assists per game.

In contrast, Barrett only ranked second (16.5 percent) to Elfrid Payton (25.8 percent) among recipients of Randle’s passes during the first half of the season.

The improving chemistry between the Knicks’ top two guys has pushed Barrett to take another leap. Barrett is making 53.3 percent of his three-point attempts coming directly from Randle since the All-Star break.

In the Knicks’ most recent twin losses in Brooklyn and Boston, Barrett has only missed two of his 12 three-point attempts.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised because I see the time he’s put into it,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And when we’ve been home, he usually comes in every night to shoot and get extra shooting in. He’s really worked hard improving the shot, and I think he’s gotten real comfortable behind the line. And I also think his teammates are also doing a good job looking for him. We’ve had good rim reads and a lot of spray-outs, so they’re good-rhythm 3s.”

His game-tying three-pointer with 54.6 seconds left in their loss to the Celtics came off a Randle kick-out pass underneath the basket.

“He’s coming into his own and knowing who he is as a player,” Randle said. “Down the stretch, he’s getting to his spots. He’s playing well. Very comfortable and continuing to grow as a player.”

It was a catch-and-shoot, wide-open shot—the kind of shot Thibodeau wanted his team to take.

This season, Barrett has been shooting 38.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3’s, a significant uptick from 33.8 percent last season, per NBA.com. Since the All-Star break, he’s hitting it with much better accuracy at 43.3 percent on four attempts per game.

For Thibodeau, it’s not only about the volume of outside shots. It’s the quality.

“We just don’t want to take any three. We want to make sure that they’re good threes, where it allows us also to get back and get our defense set,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s a combination of the two things, but I’m very pleased with his overall progress, and I think he’ll continue to grow.”

That clutch 3 in Boston was Barrett’s redemption after his unforced error over the previous play that led to a Jaylen Brown fastbreak layup.

“After I had that turnover in the game against Boston, during timeout I went to the bench, and the whole team, everybody picked me up,” Barrett said. “I have to get it back. And then, you know, the next play, I made the shot and tied the game. So it’s great to have vets like that around.”

Thibodeau’s player development revolves around accountability. He doesn’t dole out playing time like it’s a gift.

Earned, not given.

It’s the opposite of the rebuilding that some teams and fans prefer, much like in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder management decided to shut down Al Horford and shipped away their other veterans to develop their rookies with a long leash on the floor but without veteran guidance.

Rookies Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski, the undrafted sophomore big man Moses Brown and the Thunder young core have been putting insane numbers. But have also been routinely losing by a wide margin.

Barrett prefers the Knicks’ current rebuilding style, where they have a shot at winning each game, learning from pressure-packed situations.

Thibodeau and the Knicks front office have surrounded their young core with veterans who they can lean on and learn from.

“Most definitely,” Barrett said when asked if he’s benefiting from playing and sharing the floor with veterans. “They know a lot. The coaching staff knows a lot. So you know I’m kind of like a sponge every day. I’m going in and getting the chance to grow and make mistakes and keep learning. So it’s great to have vets. They always pick you up.”

Barrett made it known he wasn’t happy with the snubs. He laughed off Edwards’ comments.

So let the snubs and mocks keep on coming because Barrett likes to turn those chips into fuel. Like the wide-open looks. Like it’s breakfast.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks meltdown spoils Thibodeau’s return in Minnesota

What should have been a dream return for Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota turned into his worst nightmare.

Malik Beasley, one of the New York Knicks’ targets in the offseason, haunted them with a clutch three to complete the Timberwolves’ 102-101 comeback win on Thursday night.

The Knicks’ bitter loss spoiled Thibodeau’s first game back at the Target Center since his unceremonious firing in 2019.

Beasley, a restricted free agent in the offseason, agreed to return to Minnesota with a fresh four-year, $60-million. Tonight, he proved he was deserving after hitting the game’s biggest shot.

With the Knicks clinging to a two-point lead, they collapsed on Anthony Edwards, who led the Timberwolves’ ferocious comeback from 13 points down in the fourth quarter. The top overall pick Edwards had the presence of mind of finding a wide-open Beasley at the left elbow beyond the arc.

Beasley’s go-ahead three-pointer with 37.8 seconds left was Minnesota’s first lead since a 7-6 score early in the first quarter.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett missed their shots as the league-worst Timberwolves escaped with just their 12th win of the season.

It was the most disappointing loss for the Knicks so far this season as they blew an 18-point lead and led for 46 minutes.

Alec Burks and Barrett’s outside snipings opened up a 39-21 lead for the Knicks in the second quarter. But the Timberwolves quickly recovered and went into halftime only trailing by one, 51-50, much to the chagrin of Thibodeau, who was shaking his head heading into the locker room.

Randle poured in 10 points in the third quarter as the Knicks looked rejuvenated. They led by 11 after three quarters.

A Taj Gibson dunk gave the Knicks a 90-77 lead with 8:33 to go in the fourth quarter. But Edwards, who played with so much poise and confidence, willed the Timberwolves back with 11 of his 24 points and two key steals.

Randle finished with his 14th 20-10-5 game of the season, tallying 26 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists after a slow start. Only Bob McAdoo had more in a season for the Knicks (17 in 1977-78 season). But it all went for naught as he missed a potential game-winner with 11.4 seconds left.

Barrett, who rebounded from a subpar game against Miami, had 23 points but his poor play down the stretch hastened the Knicks’ downfall.

He lazily fouled Edwards at the onset of the Timberwolves’ fourth-quarter run for an and-one. Then he misfired a stepback jumper with 1.4 seconds left.

“It’s disappointing. We had a big lead in the first half, and we didn’t take care of it. We repeated it,” Thibodeau said. “It’s disappointing because of the turnovers. We beat ourselves.”

The Knicks had 17 turnovers, five of them they committed in the fourth quarter.

Gibson played solid off the bench for Thibodeau and almost ended up as the hero. He had seven points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. He caught an Elfrid Payton blocked shot and scored the Knicks’ last basket to push it to 101-99 with 55 seconds left.

The much-anticipated showdown between the recent NBA Rookie Ladder’s no. 2 Edwards and no. 3 Immanuel Quickley turned into a one-sided affair. Edwards came up with a complete game, leading the Timberwolves in scoring while adding two rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocks.

On the other hand, Quickley was held scoreless in 13 minutes. The Knicks rookie missed all four of his attempts but got three boards, two assists, and a steal.

Beasley scored 20 points with five triples. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with a double-double (18 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks) while the Timberwolves’ other rookie Jaden McDaniels fired four treys en route to 18 points, four points off his career-high.

The Knicks’ second straight loss dropped them to sixth place in the East with an even 24-24 slate. Miami Heat, who beat them last Tuesday, moved up to fifth despite having a similar 24-24 record by virtue of sweeping their regular-season matchup.

The Knicks will host their former cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis, along with rising superstar Luka Doncic and the surging Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks’ quiet NBA trade deadline reflects newfound stability

The New York Knicks approached the trade deadline the same way they did in the offseason. They operated with silence and guided by prudence.

For the first time in a long while, the Knicks roster has chemistry. Their overachieving group, which currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 23-22 slate, reflects the stability in the Knicks hierarchy.

“Leon and his staff did an unbelievable job,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said in the aftermath of a quiet NBA trade deadline for the Knicks. “There’s a plan that was really well thought out. There were a number of possible opportunities and I thought they were really disciplined. We love the team we have. So it worked out well for us.”

Unlike his predecessors, Rose, the unassuming president of the most magnified NBA franchise, has successfully kept himself from a media firestorm.

But don’t mistake their silence for passiveness.

The Knicks did entertain and were active on calls. But even when there were tempting talents within their reach, Rose and co. showed restraint. It’s a refreshing change for a franchise that has long been known for knee-jerk reactions and irrational actions.

“For us, it’s building the foundation by going step by step. If something can help us, we’ll consider it and we did but it was very well executed. So I’m very pleased with that,” Thibodeau said.

They were linked to Evan Fournier, who eventually went to Boston Celtics for two second-round picks. The Knicks could have had him. But they stuck with their guns as Alec Burks continue to flourish and Reggie Bullock providing defense and outside shooting. Both players are outplaying their contracts and have cemented their spots in Thibodeau’s rotation.

When the Knicks are healthy, it’s tough to insert Fournier, who will have to learn and adjust to Thibodeau’s system while also thinking of his next contract.

Lonzo Ball was also on their radar, and the Knicks were active in the negotiation table until the 11th hour, Ian Begley of SNY reported. No deal was made. Perhaps it was too rich for their blood. But Ball will certainly get an offer from the Knicks in his upcoming restricted free agency.

Rose chose their present team chemistry over altering their DNA that might pose a risk to their team’s upward trajectory.

The Knicks only made one minor move: picking up two more future second-round picks for a couple of players out of their rotation. They dealt Austin Rivers and Ignas Brazdeikis in a three-team trade with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder that netted them Terrance Ferguson and Frenchman Vincent Poirier, who was waived, along with the additional draft capital.

Rivers became the ambassador of goodwill for the Knicks at the beginning of the season. And for a while, his run with rookie Immanuel Quickley in the second unit’s backcourt was fun. Too bad, the “Quivers” didn’t last long. Some good things never last.

Rivers fell out of the rotation once Derrick Rose, the former MVP, and a Thibodeau favorite, arrived.

“It didn’t work out. We have a situation in which we have a number of players and we didn’t have injuries. There was a period when we were shorthanded and I thought Austin played well. He’s been a good player in the league,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously, we wish him well and we’ll go from there.”

The Knicks still have a cap space of nearly $15 million which they can use until the next Draft but cannot carry over to next season. Or they can use it right now to sign a free agent to fill up the roster spot vacated by Poirier.

They can make a run at Andre Drummond or sign any player from the free-agent market. Whatever the Knicks decide to do with their remaining cap space, expect that decision to be guided by prudence, a hallmark of Rose’s leadership.

On the day the Knicks were frantically taking and making calls, Thibodeau was in and out of their war room checking out on every possible Knicks trade while preparing his team for a rematch with the Washington Wizards later that night.

His mind was divided. But his heart wasn’t.

“Leon is very inclusive. Everyone has a voice and that’s all you could ask for. But I really respect and admire the discipline to follow the plan and to weigh everything out and determine if it makes sense or not,” Thibodeau said. “For us, it’s building the foundation by going step by step. If something can help us, we’ll consider it and we did but it was very well executed. So I’m very pleased with that.”

Thibodeau knew in his heart that he has the team that he can go to war with. The Knicks have the lowest payroll, but they have managed to stay in the middle of the pack of the bunched-up Eastern Conference.

Thibodeau did not say it directly but reading between his lines. He fought for this team to remain intact. He fell in love with this team, whose effort reflects his hard-nosed coaching.

“Their willingness to commit to play for each other, sacrifice to put the team first, come in every day. We know we have a long way to go. It will require more commitment and more sacrifices and more fight because you can see how bunched everyone is. You need some good fortune but you also need the willingness to play as a team. This team has demonstrated that all year and so we want to continue to build and see where we can go,” Thibodeau said. 

Later that night, the Knicks proved their coach right. They came back from as many as 17 points down to sweep their regular-season series against the Washington Wizards, 106-102.

“It’s great to understand the front office has confidence in us,’’ said Taj Gibson, the 35-yeard old third-string center who closed out the game with his splendid play. “But we got to continue to grow. It was a hard-fought win that showed the character of our team.”

How far can these Knicks go?

Thibodeau wants to find out. Rose and his front office agreed.

For the first time, there’s synergy within the Knicks organization. Out with the disfunction, in with the positive transformation. The once-moribund franchise is finally headed in the right direction.

Even with more than $50 million in cap space and a stacked draft capital this summer, expect the Knicks to operate the same way they did this season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Drummond’s buyout market centers around Lakers, Knicks

New York Knicks, Andre Drummond

The New York Knicks approached the NBA trade deadline with restraint, much as they did in the free agency.

They only did a minor trade involving Austin Rivers, who has fallen out of the rotation, and end-of-the-bench player Ignas Brazdeikis.

With their $15 million cap space still intact, the Knicks could still improve their roster via the buyout market.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report doubled down on an earlier report of The Ringer’s Kevin O’ Connor that the Knicks are a serious landing spot for Andre Drummond.

The Cleveland Cavaliers found no taker for Drummond, a former two-time All-star and a four-time rebounding leader, at the trade deadline.

The Lakers could offer less money but a chance to win a ring as Anthony Davis’ backup in the postseason.

More money to offer

The Knicks can lure Drummond with a multi-year deal and a more significant role in an ascending team that has a chance to break a seven-year playoff drought.

The Knicks can use their cap space to offer Drummond a pro-rated four-year, $64-million deal, according to The Athletic’s front office insider and former Memphis Grizzlies executive John Hollinger.

Ian Begley of SNY reported earlier that the Knicks are divided when it comes to going after Drummond but added a prominent voice that wants to add him.

Connecticut connections

Drummond is a Mount Vernon native but considers Middletown, Connecticut, as his home, which is only a 15-minute drive from New Britain, Connecticut, where Tom Thibodeau hails.

Thibodeau coached Drummond in the 2014 FIBA World Cup as an assistant coach of the Team USA that won the gold. In the same year, Drummond fired Rob Pelinka as his agent. Pelinka is now the Lakers’ general manager.

Drummond also played for Thibodeau’s good friend, Jim Calhoun, in college. Thibodeau used to visit Calhoun’s practices in the Northeast. Drummond considers his UConn coach as one of his best friends.

It is unclear, though, if Thibodeau is that prominent voice that Begley refers to in his report.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks trade Rivers, Brazdeikis in 3-way deal with Thunder, 76ers

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers knew his days with the New York Knicks were already numbered upon Derrick Rose’s arrival.

As expected, the Knicks traded Rivers to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of a three-way deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, as first reported by ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Rivers first hinted about a trade for him last month he fell out of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.

“They had told me after the game [Feb. 7 versus the Heat] that they were bringing Derrick in,” Rivers said. “I had already kind of heard stuff even before the season started that he was going to be coming here. My whole thing is, control what I can control. When they had told me he was coming, I said ‘OK,’ and obviously, there’s been stuff about me being moved to other places. With all this kind of up in the air right now, my thing is, as long as I’m a Knick, just to be professional. I don’t know what can happen today or tomorrow or next week or the week after that. Every day that I’m here I’m always going to be all in.”

The Knicks got Terrance Ferguson, a former Thunder first-round pick in 2017, in return. New York also sent Ignas Brazdeikis to Philadelphia and picked up Vincent Poirier and two future second-round picks.

Drummond to the Knicks?

Meanwhile, Kevin O’ Connor of The Ringer reported that the Knicks are a serious landing spot for Andre Drummond on Wednesday night. The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to find a trade for Drummond, a former two-time All-star and a four-time rebounding leader.

The Knicks only need $13.7 million in salary to trade for Drummond.

But a better scenario for the Knicks is if Drummond is bought out, they can lure him a multi-year deal which he will likely prefer than what contenders Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers can offer.

In this scenario, the Knicks can offer Drummond a pro-rated four-year, $64-million deal, according to The Athletic’s front office insider and former Memphis Grizzlies executive John Hollinger.

Drummond is a Mount Vernon native but considers Middletown, Connecticut, as his home, which is only a 15-minute drive from New Britain, Connecticut, where Tom Thibodeau hails.

Thibodeau coached Drummond in the 2014 FIBA World Cup as an assistant coach of the Team USA that won the gold.

Drummond also played for Thibodeau’s good friend, Jim Calhoun, in college. Thibodeau used to visit Calhoun’s practices in the Northeast. Drummond considers his UConn coach as one of his best friends.

The Knicks can also pivot to another asset accumulation move as a third team to use their $15 million cap space.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Pool report says Thibodeau late to challenge costly call in Knicks’ loss to 76ers

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

New York coach Tom Thibodeau was livid that he was denied to challenge the loose ball foul called on Julius Randle that cost the Knicks the game against the Philadelphia 76ers last Sunday night.

“They said we didn’t challenge. Two officials. Tough calls. That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Thibodeau said.

Did he have a valid argument?

Crew chief Courtney Kirkland insisted he did not challenge the call right away. Kirkland explained the turn of events in the pool report.

“The foul call was a loose ball foul called against Julius Randle. That was the foul call. Coach Thibodeau did not signal for a challenge during the same interaction with the officials. In order to initiate a challenge, the coach must signal for a challenge during the same interaction, and he did not do so,” Kirkland explained to pool reporter Steve Popper of the Newsday.

The television replays showed Randle giving Tobias Harris a slight push as the Philadelphia gunner rushed to battle Nerlens Noel for the rebound with 5.3 seconds left in overtime.

Harris got two free throws with Thibodeau’s clamor for a challenge falling on deaf ears even after storming the court to plead his case with the officials.

As it turned out, it was a costly call for the Knicks.

Harris calmly sank the two free throws that served as the tight game’s biggest margin.

The 76ers completed a season sweep of the Knicks and extended their winning streak in their head-to-head matches to 15.

It was the Knicks’ second time to be embroiled in late-game call controversy this season. Ironically, Randle was also at the receiving end of a crucial call— a traveling violation— in their 117-112 loss to the Brooklyn Nets last week.

Randle avoided being penalized as his teammates and William Wesley, the Knicks executive vice president and senior advisor, were able to restrain him from going after the officials.

But this time, things could turn worse for Randle as his emotions got the better of him. The Knicks’ All-Star publicly criticized the officiating after Sunday night’s loss to the 76ers.

“Blown call by the officials. Not enough contact for them to call the play. Nerlens (Noel), clearly he had possession. After all the fouling and everything that was going on for them to call that and decide the game is f—ing ridiculous. It’s ridiculous! They’ve got to do a better job. There are too many games like this,” Randle said in an explosive postgame interview.

An NBA fine could be waiting for Randle.

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Thibodeau, Randle mad after late costly call sinks Knicks

New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau kept it short while Julius Randle spewed fire after their heartbreaking 101-100 overtime loss Sunday night at The Garden to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“They said we didn’t challenge. Two officials. Tough calls. That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau was visibly furious after he was denied to challenge the loose ball foul called on Julius Randle that led to Tobias Harris’ game-winning free throws with 5.3 seconds left in the overtime.

Harris redeemed himself from missing two crucial free throws late in the regulation.

The Knicks still had a chance to win, but Randle’s tough jumper rimmed out at the buzzer.

Randle immediately vented his ire on the officials — only two of them as the third referee Dannica Mosher was a late scratch due to health and safety protocols.

“Blown call by the officials. Not enough contact for them to call the play. Nerlens (Noel), clearly he had possession. After all the fouling and everything that was going on for them to call that and decide the game is f—ing ridiculous. It’s ridiculous! They’ve got to do a better job. There are too many games like this,” Randle said in an explosive postgame interview.

The replays, though, showed Randle slightly shoved Harris with his hands caught clinging to the jersey.

It was the Knicks’ second straight tough defeat against the 76ers this week. Harris, a Long Island native, was also the Knicks’ tormentor in their 99-96 loss earlier this week in Philadelphia.

Randle’s costly foul failed to preserve his heroics in the regulation. The Knicks’ All-Star buried a corner three with 6.4 seconds left to force the overtime.

Alec Burks, who flubbed a fastbreak layup in the fourth quarter, engaged Danny Green in a wild shootout in the extra period.

The Knicks appeared to be in control when they opened a four-point lead, 100-96, on Reggie Bullock’s three with 70 seconds left.

But Harris bailed Philadelphia (30-13) out of trouble, scoring his team’s last five points. The narrow win kept the 76ers in the solo top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell Robinson returned after missing the Knicks’ last 15 games with a fractured hand. He appeared to be fine, collecting four points—including a putback slam— and six rebounds until he rolled his ankle in the second half. The Knicks’ young center played 17 minutes off the bench.

Immanuel Quickley also came back after a one-game absence and started anew with Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols) and Elfrid Payton (hamstring) still out. But Quickley was rusty as he missed his first five shots and the Knicks trailed by double digits early on.

Philadelphia built its largest lead, 43-29, in the second quarter. Then Quickley came alive. The rookie guard nailed two triples in a 13-0 New York run to end the first half only down by one, 43-42.

Burks scored 20 points off the bench, tallying 16 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime. RJ Barrett had 19 and eight boards while Nerlens Noel also stepped up for the Knicks with a season-high 13 points and 10 rebounds.

But all their efforts went down the drain.

The Knicks slipped to 21-22 and will host the lowly Washington Wizards (15-26), losers of eight of their last 10 games, on Tuesday and Thursday at home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks suffer another heartbreaker but Thibodeau finds silver linings

Julius Randle missed his last seven attempts. RJ Barrett muffed a crucial wide-open, 10-foot fadeaway. Immanuel Quickley bricked a potential game-tying three-pointer.

A banged up and short-handed New York Knicks team faded down the stretch as the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers improved to 18-3 at home with a come-from-behind 99-96 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Randle survived a nasty fall in the second half while Quickley went back to the locker room to retape a tweaked ankle. But they were running on fumes and didn’t have the usual fire late in the game to drag the Knicks to the finish line.

Long Island’s Tobias Harris scored six of his game-high 30 points inside the final 2:26 to lift the 76ers over the Knicks, who just came from an emotionally-charged loss in Brooklyn.

Playing on the last night of a back-to-back schedule against the East’s top two teams, the Knicks actually had the game in control for the most part until midway through the fourth quarter.

After Randle gave the Knicks a 10-point lead, 71-61, with 7:57 remaining in the third quarter, fatigue took its toll. Randle scored only on one free throw the rest of the way.

The Knicks All-Star finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists but didn’t have the legs to carry the team to the finish line.

Up by nine heading into the final quarter, the Knicks came up with only 14 points, four in the last 3:18 that did them in.

Still without their key players Mitchell Robinson (broken hand), Elfrid Payton (hamstring injury), and Derrick Rose (health and safety protocols), Tom Thibodeau was forced to play Randle and Barrett heavy minutes.

Randle played in the 40s in both losses against the Nets and the 76ers.

Barrett had 17 points on just 7-for-17 shooting in 41 minutes against Ben Simmons and the 76ers.

Quickley scored 13 points in his second straight start but only hit 1-for-5 from deep. His last miss came in the final 12.8 seconds, with the Knicks trailing by three.

Despite going 1-3 in the tough road trip, Tom Thibodeau was consoled by the fact that they dragged the top two teams in the East — Philadelphia, and Brooklyn — down to the last possession.

“We’re short-handed. That’s part of it,” Thibodeau said. “Whenever one guy goes out, it’s an opportunity for another guy to step in. Sometimes you find some things that can be very good for the team. I think taking a look at the Brooklyn game and this game, there were a lot of good things to take from it, and obviously, we fell short in the end. It shows us the work necessary for us to get over the hump. And we have to continue to work.”

Quickley stepped up and averaged 17 points and 2.5 assists as a starter. Frank Ntilikina, though, failed to capitalize on the opportunity as he went scoreless on both games. But to Ntilikina’s credit, he had his moments on the defensive end, particularly in the fourth quarter against the Nets.

Birthday boy Reggie Bullock, who turned 30 on Tuesday, had another strong outing with 12 points but had a crucial error when he stepped out of bounds on a three-point attempt.

Alec Burks and Taj Gibson combined for 29 points off the bench.

The Knicks head home and will host four games at the Madison Square Garden, beginning with the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

What could Andre Drummond cost the Knicks? Is he worth the price?

New York Knicks, Andre Drummond

With starting center Mitchell Robinson still on the recovery from his fractured right hand surgery, the New York Knicks have done their due diligence on Cleveland Cavaliers’ big man Andre Drummond.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Knicks have explored the possibility of adding Drummond, a four-time NBA rebounding leader and a two-time All-Star, for their playoff chase.

Charania added that the Knicks are mulling a multi-year deal to lure Drummond from going elsewhere. Title contenders Los Angeles Lakers and the Knicks’ crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets are believed to be potential destinations for Drummond should he enter a buyout agreement and becomes a free agent.

The Knicks, however, can also outright eliminate other suitors if they trade for Drummond, and it will probably cost them a second-round pick and/or two of three salary fillers from their expendable players like Austin Rivers, Frank Ntilikina, or even Kevin Knox. The Cavaliers are believed to be seeking an asset in return for Drummond.

But if the Knicks wanted to join the Drummond sweepstakes via buyout, what can they offer in a multi-year deal to pry him away from the minimum deal that comes with the glittery promise of a Larry O’Brien trophy in Los Angeles or Brooklyn?

Drummond’s market price

ESPN Front Office Insider and former Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks gave us an idea of Drummond’s price range in the open market.

“He’s a $15-17 million player,” Marks told Empire Sports Media.

But he’s also skeptical if he’ll be worth it since he believes Drummond won’t be a major upgrade from Robinson.

“They are a first-round [playoff] team right now,” Marks said. And he answered with an emphatic “No” when asked if Drummond gives the Knicks a better shot of advancing deeper in the playoffs.

At a bare minimum, the Knicks can use Drummond as insurance for Robinson [if he’ll be out longer than expected] as they navigate the third toughest schedule in the second half.

Drummond averaged 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 25 games for the Cavaliers before he was shut down.

In contrast, Robinson was averaging 8.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.1 blocks before he went down with an injury last month. Backup center Nerlens Noel is averaging 6.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks since he took over from Robinson.

Risk-cost benefit

When Robinson comes back at full health, Tom Thibodeau would have more options.

If he wants to generate more offense from the post, he could roll with the more offensively-polished Drummond. But if he wants rim protection, Robinson could have more value on the court. This could make Noel expendable and move Taj Gibson further down the rotation.

Drummond will be a bigger weapon to have against Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo or the firepower-heavy Nets in a potential first-round playoff series. But as Marks suggested, Drummond won’t push the Knicks over the first-round hump.

However, the bigger concern would be the risk of drilling a hole in the already solid Knicks’ chemistry.

Drummond could eat into the Knicks’ lone post threat Julius Randle’s usage rate on top of potentially rubbing Robinson the wrong way. Unless the Knicks intend to flip Robinson into a major backcourt upgrade such as Lonzo Ball or in a larger package for an All-Star level guard like Bradley Beal or Victor Oladipo, Leon Rose and his shrewd front office could be on to something.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau shoots down idea of trading for star before March 25 deadline

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks simply aren’t good enough to challenge some of the better teams in the NBA like the Milwaukee Bucks. Falling 134-101 on Thursday evening,

The Knick started off the second half of the season in disappointing fashion, and despite All-Star Julius Randle stating that it was just an off night and simply an anomaly, this has happened to the Knicks a few times. Their inability to stick with above-average teams has become apparent, and making a living off beating sub .500 squads doesn’t necessarily scream playoff contention.

The idea of trading for a superstar is becoming more attractive, but the rumors have died down as of late, with Victor Oladipo being the latest connected to New York. However, Oladipo has dealt with serious injury issues and has only played 16 games this season. If New York is going to trade for a star player, it needs to be someone committed to the team and with a good health history.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about the potential for a trade, and he was very dismissive of the idea.

“That’s a Leon (Rose) question,” Thibodeau said when asked about trading for a star player. “Look, I have a strong bias toward good players. I know they’re looking at all the possibilities. If something makes sense for us, we’ll do it. If not, I love the team that we have. I love the guys that we have on the team. We’ll just keep working with what we have and Leon and Wes (Knicks senior executive William Wesley), they’re combing the league. (GM) Scott Perry, that’s their job.”

What assets do the Knicks have?

If the Knicks do want to execute a deal, they have five first-round picks over the next three years and a ton of second-round picks. They also have a few youth pieces to utilize, including Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and a few veterans to consider.

A few smaller options they could target include JJ Redick, a premier three-point shooter who can help in specific ways, and guard Lonzo Ball was also been floated in recent days.
Personally, I think the Knicks are rolling with their current team and eyeing the 2022 off-season as an opportunity to sign a star player. With all of their draft capital, I believe they prefer to utilize it appropriately instead of trading it away. The Knicks aren’t a championship-contending team right now, but retaining all of their capital and signing a player in free agency might be the most efficient move.