Madison Square Garden is where NBA stars make a name for themselves, a place where many have put on a show or at least held a clinic in basketball execution and skill. It is also the home to the New York Knicks, a franchise that has garnered two championships and awed and wowed celebrities and laypeople alike with their glory.
What happened to the Knicks this year, especially after having such a great season the year before. We’ll review what went wrong in the 2021-2022 season and what needs to go right for the Knicks to be back in contention next year and in many more years to come.
As stated earlier, the Knicks had one of the best seasons in a long time in the 2020-2021 season. They finished with a 41 – 31 record as the 4th seed, and they even won a game against one of the would-be Eastern Conference Finals teams, the Atlanta Hawks.
Their best player, Julius Randle, won Most Improved Player and became a first-time All-Star. Things were looking up.
Unfortunately, things began going down not long after the Knicks touched the floor in the 2021-2022 season. They started the season winning five of their first six games, but more and more, they began losing more than winning. Their record this season is an atrocious 35-44 as they struggle to close games, even ones that they are winning. They have lost multiple games after taking the lead and over 20 games by less than 10 points.
Their star, Julius Randle, has regressed instead of blooming to make matters worse.
He went from averaging 24.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists last season to 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. That doesn’t seem like too big of a drop-off but considering that he stopped pounding the boards in favor of shooting more from three, it lowered his overall field goal percentage by 6%.
Perhaps the worst of the wrong is the Knicks’ defense. This year, they are 22 in defensive rating, down from number three last season, as they have struggled to keep teams under 100 points. Add Derrick Rose’s injury and Kemba Walker’s disappointing efforts, and the Knicks can’t win for losing, literally.
Last season, the Knicks’ success provided hope for the faithful Knicks fans that their team could rise and be on top once again.
They must first fix the lackluster defense. Next, Tom Thibodeau must execute the defensive training and mindset in his team that he is known for. Perhaps imploring the zone defense (which has worked against them consistently) is what the scoreboard ordered to keep the Knicks from losing by getting out-scored.
Next, Randle must stay in his lane (pun intended). A 6’8 power forward does not consistently belong on the perimeter, jacking threes; he belongs in the paint, increasing his rebounds and increasing the Knicks’ chances at advancing to the playoffs.
The best chance that the Knicks can make the playoffs routinely is to focus on their number three pick from the 2019 Draft, R.J. Barrett. Barrett has averaged 17.5 points and 2.9 assists in his short career with the Knicks, and every night he brings it, showing that his game can only get better. With veteran leadership from Derrick Rose and a few tweaks to the roster, Barrett should be the focal point of the Knicks in the future.
Improving their defense, utilizing Randle and Barrett to their full capacity, and tweaking their roster to include more shooting and better on-the-ball defense can only help the Knicks. But will it return them to their former glory? Time will tell.
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