Knicks come up short again
The Knicks just lost another heartbreaker, this time it was to the Chicago Bulls. New York is now in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a .500 record at 11-11. New York’s play is actually in-line with the experts’ predictions. However, Knick fans expected more, they think this team should be better than last season’s squad.
While it’s easy to get down and give up on the team, there is a lot to be optimistic about despite the disappointing start.
The first is the record, everyone forgets that last season the Knicks had a losing record after 22 games, 9-13. So technically, this season’s team is playing better despite working through chemistry issues.
No Bullsh*t this season !!
The next thing to be encouraged about is the front office politics, especially when it comes to the point guard position. Last season, we had to endure Elfrid Payton as the starting point guard for the whole season, up until the playoff series against Atlanta started to slip away.
This season has been the complete opposite. After only 20 games Thibs decided to make the bold move of benching native New Yorker Kemba Walker, the teams’ headline-grabbing free agent signing of the summer. True leadership risks unpopularity, and that is exactly what Thibs and the front office did. They admitted they made a mistake and quickly pivoted. This is something we are not used to seeing from leaders in the past.
This showed the players that there is real accountability on this team and that minutes have to be earned; a message about the culture was sent.
A New Cheat Code?
The other encouraging thing from Thibs’ decision to bench Kemba was who he selected to start in his place. Instead of just elevating one of the other point guards, Rose or Quickley, Thibs decided to go out of the box by inserting Alec Burks. This unlocked a whole new dimension of possibilities for the Knicks.
While Thibs’ revelation might have occurred due to circumstance since the Knicks were shorthanded when Burks was thrust into the starting lineup against Atlanta. We should just be glad it happened.
That is exactly how the Warriors came up with the “Death Lineup” which turned Golden State from a good team to a dynasty. They were shorthanded at Center so they decided to play Draymond Green there. That move turned the NBA on its head as they went small when everyone in the league still had lumbering big men.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying going big by playing Burks at point guard is going to make the Knicks a championship team, but it definitely makes them a more formidable one.
Being able to punish smaller backcourts with Burks and Barrett creates an advantage, especially with two of the stronger big men combos, Randle and Robinson protecting the paint. Thibs might have just created one of the best “Bully Ball” lineups in the league. It’s reminiscent of the 1990s Knicks that played essentially played two power forwards alongside Patrick Ewing. Adding Xavier McDaniel or Anthony Mason to a frontcourt with Ewing and Oakley created a strength advantage that wore teams down.
The other advantage of having Burks as the starting point guard is that it lets Julius Randle go back to the role that made him so effective last season, point-forward.
I know what many of you are thinking, this isn’t the first time the Knicks tried Burks at point guard. They did it last season with the 2nd unit with limited results, but this season is different. Burks is being inserted into a lineup with 3 other ballhandlers, RJ, Fournier, and Randle, which reduces his ballhandling duties. He also has already played a full season with 3 of the 4 other starters, so chemistry is not as big an issue as when the Knicks were trying to integrate two ball handlers into the starting lineup, Kemba and Fournier.
The Knicks are only 1-2 since making the move, but that is because RJ Barrett has only played 9 minutes in the last two games due to illness. Let’s see how the Knicks’ new bully-ball lineup does over the next 5 games before passing judgment.