Knicks Knocking at First Winning Season in 7 Years 

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With the all-star break for the 2021 NBA season upon us, the New York Knicks find themselves in a surprising spot: over .500. Led by their all-star forward, Julius Randel, the club tries to end their 7 season losing record streak, and, better yet, earn a chance for their first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season. Although currently 5th in the Eastern conference, there are still many basketball games, 18 of 45 to be exact, to be played at Madison Square Garden, the home of the Orange and Blue. So what makes this Knicks team, with a current record of 19-18, so special?

To find that answer, we have to look back to the past 7 years for these Knickerbockers. For one, the Knicks’ two worst seasons had been 2018-19 and 2014-15, both of which saw them posting records of 17-65 and last in the standings. Not only that, these were the 2 worst seasons the franchise had ever had, and they came only 4 years apart. So what went wrong? Their leading scorer in 2018, Tim Hardaway Jr, was averaging 19 points per game. To put that into perspective, the league’s leader was James Harden who was putting up 36 points per game for the Houston Rockets. Their coach, David Fizdale, had a .202 win percentage. That is lowest among every other coach the Knicks had ever had. In 2015, the Knicks leading scorer was Carmelo Anthony with 24 points per game. For  this season, their coach was Derek Fisher who had the second lowest win percentage.  In the past 7 years, the closest the Knicks got to reaching a .500 was in 2014 when they finished 37-45 and 9th in the East. Since then the Knicks had not even broken 35 wins. That’s right:  35!

How did a Knicks team that was dead to rights for the past 7 years, suddenly turn their ship around? Is it the players? The coach? Some New York magic? 

For starters, their current coach, Thomas Joseph Thibodeau Jr., is no stranger to success… in the regular season. From 1990-2010, Thibodeau was an assistant coach for 6 NBA teams. This included a 7 year assistant coaching gig with the Knicks. In his first year at the control panel, however, Thibodeau won coach of the year after leading the Bulls to a 62-20 record. In his 5 seasons as the coach of the Bulls, he amassed a record of 255-139. Although making the playoffs in each year, they never could get to a championship and Thibodeau ended up leaving the team in 2015. After a drastically underwhelming 3 year stint with the Timberwolves, Thibodeau finds himself in New York. With promise in the air, it seems as if the Knicks have finally banked in a long term coach. What a story it would be to have the Knicks in the championship with a first year coach who had never gotten there before. 

Secondly, the Knicks have a talent on the basketball court for more than 20 minutes in a game. It’s not that the bulk of the players are all stars, it’s that the bulk of the team is average. The Knicks are currently averaging 104 points per game, 47 rebounds per game, and are shooting about 50% from the floor. All these are average; however, since the Knicks have underachieved in recent memory, optimism is high for all Knickerbocker fans. These stats do show promise and the players that make up these stats show even more promise. Leading the charge is forward Julius Randel. The former 7th overall pick leads the team in scoring, rebounds and assists. He is shooting 48% from the floor and 41% from beyond the arc. This is his second season with the Knicks and he has already grown into being a full time starter. Following close behind is shooting guard RJ Barrett. Averaging 16.5 points per game, the second year man out of Duke has grown into a home-grown hero. Shooting 35% from 3, Barrett has been developing as a reliable leader for this Knicks team. Along with the Young bucks leading the charge, Derrick Rose, the former first overall pick for the Chicago Bulls has been a key contributor as well. Although only playing in ten games this season, Rose has been averaging 12.5 points per game, shooting 43.1% from the floor, and 46% from 3 point range. 

Needless to say this Knicks team has opened a lot of people’s eyes and ears. However, with a second half of the season still to come, is this Knicks team truly playoff or even .500 bound?  With a lot of basketball to be played, and doubters to sway, the best thing that the Knicks can do is keep winning. If they can, the seven year playoff skid would hopefully come to a close.