Mimbres on the Knicks? Quickley, Thibodeau ... and light in the dark

With Thibodeau, the Knicks are at their best since Carmelo's departure, they are among the best defenses in the NBA and they look to the future with optimism.


What about the Knicks? Or, put another way, is something really going on with the Knicks? Anyone knows with a franchise that is experiencing one of the biggest crises of the 21st century in the NBA. And more than by the number of losses or the number of years without playoffs, it is because of what all that means in one of the largest markets, one of the most glamorous teams and one of the most iconic areas of American and world sport. The Knicks have not reached the finals since 2013, they have had seven negative records in the last seven years, they have not exceeded 40 wins even once (they have dropped to 17 on two occasions) and they have been, steadily , the laughing stock of the NBA. The mismanagement of tight-fisted James Dolan has caused five coaches to pass through Madison Square Garden since Mike Woodson's departure, and people only go to watch the games (when they could, of course) to go on television and feel part of the New York show business, with Spike Lee, used to applauding rivals more than his own team, at the helm.

So is there any real reason to think the Knicks are on the right track? At the moment, the season has just begun and their record is 10-13 (ninth in the East at half-game of the Hornets, eighth), but they are nothing like the Knicks of other seasons. Obviously, they are nowhere near their glory years, so distant that few fans remember. Nor are they going to be a setback in a more competitive Eastern Conference than ever. But they are on their best start since Carmelo's departure, they add only 13 victories less than those they registered in the entire past year, and double those won in the first 22 games of it, when David Fidzale was fired with an ignominious balance. of 4-18 who did nothing more than confirm that 17-65 of 2018-19, was his legacy as a coach and not just another symptom of a franchise facing a gargantuan crisis.

Ni Fisher or Hornacek had similar beginnings, aside from Kurt Rambis or Mike Miller, who landed on the bench due to the dismissal in the middle of the season and due to the dismissal of their already mentioned predecessors. Neither did Mike Woodson, who coached the Knicks in 2012-13 and got them through to the first round for the first time since Jeff Van Gundy sneaked the New Yorkers into an Eastern finals in 1999 that he beat in 1999 (as an eighth wound). ) and in which he yielded that same season. Woodson achieved the Knicks' only 50-win season since precisely the youngest of the Van Gundy, and the following year he made the last season remotely worthy (if 37-45 can be considered as such), of the franchise . And even so, the start was radically opposite to the current one, which is 8-8. Then, in the first 16 games, the disaster reached disproportionate levels: 3-13, requests for Woodson's dismissal and the beginning of the fall into hell of a Carmelo Anthony who the year before had become a Madison Square Garden idol , when he won the title of leading scorer (28.7 points per game). The last great hero, of course for the paraphernalia that the team has as a hobby.

Tom Thibodeau: Patch or Real Fix?

The Knicks' coaching job is so cursed that many raise their voices every time they see someone peek at it. As if it were a warning, everyone ends up fleeing in terror, especially a Becky Hammon interviewed in the past for the position, but who decided to be conservative with what could come up. Starting a career as the first coach in the history of the NBA in the Big Apple is, be careful, a risk that nobody is willing to take (that they tell Derek Fisher, later crucified by Phil Jackson). And making history could be an ephemeral sensation for the gallery if we consider that an incipient career can be diminished by starting in the place where nobody wants to start.

Thibodeau is not exactly a stranger in the best league in the world. Famous for being Doc Rivers' defensive assistant, in those Celtics of the big three (Garnett-Pierce-Allen) who conquered the only Celtics title since Larry Bird, in 2008, he was in charge of weaving a spider web full of constant helps to dry out a Kobe Bryant who averaged 25.7 points per game but with only 40.5% shooting. Thibodeau remained as Rivers' lieutenant until the 2010 Finals, and after that he headed for the position of head coach with a great reputation as a second and an uncertain but optimistic adventure. In the Bulls, the Eastern finals in 2011 with Derrick Rose (MVP that season) as a bastion knew little, and the conclusions, due to the constant injuries of their star, were impossible to draw.Yes, both in Chicago and in his tumultuous adventure in the Wolves, he made clear the lines of his now familiar style: defense, discipline, many minutes for the starters and an iron management of a game that is always schematized, not very organic and sometimes effective. , others gimmicky. Thibodeau made a name for himself with the Bulls and led Minnesota to the playoffs for the first (and last) time since 2004, with much trouble. And he made it clear that he was good at youth management and elicited obedience with his mere presence. , at least in the cases in which madness (Wiggins and Towns, with Butler emerging more as a problem than a solution) took over vitally and structurally a franchise such as the Wolves, in a gargantuan crisis that he could not solve either.

The new ones? Knicks

At the moment, Thibodeau's hand is showing and the Knicks are competing and winning games in a way that is as unexpected as they deserve, but also losing as only they know. Of course, there is a certain regularity in his game and some green shoots that can invite relative optimism. Relative, if we take into account the precedents, obviously. For now, they are what they are: Julius Randle is at All Star level and averaging 22.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 6 assists in almost 37 minutes (again, Thibodeau brand), in addition to showing the first decent defensive version of his entire career. RJ Barret swarms between the good game and the optimal moments (17.8 points per night), Elfryd Payton is being regular and Mitchell Robinson, without overdoing it, does what he has to do (8.9 + 8.2). And then there is Immanuel Quickley, of course, who chosen in the 25th position of the draft is knocking loudly on the doors of the starting position, he is cool, an idol in an empty Madison (when Knicks fans give them for something .. .) and a player with wickers who shoots badly, but defends well, runs (when he has to do it, which with his coach is little) and makes the most of the 18.5 minutes per game he passes on the court. Which are beginning to seem few, by the way.

And more. The Knicks receive just 104.1 points per game, the best defense in the NBA behind only (yes) the Lakers (104.0). And of course, they are the ones that score the least (102.4), but they only allow 43.6% in field shots from their rivals and, be careful, 31.4% in triples (the best data in the League in both sections ) something impressive in an era dominated by them. New Yorkers dominate their games net and completely from defense (Thibodeau and his stuff), they are the team with the lowest pace (pace of play) in the League and they play tedious and boring basketball. But they win games (10-13 at the moment, with victories over rivals of a certain entity like the Warriors), they cling to the playoffs (or play-in) spots and have more reason to be optimistic than in the last eight seasons. . Of course, you have to be careful. Far are those rings from the 70s, when Madison was the center of the world. And yes, the Knicks have reason to be optimistic ... but always from the utmost caution. After all, they are still the Knicks.

Photos from as.com
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