It’s been a long summer, and the anticipation of New York Knicks basketball was finally satisfied by tonight’s smackdown of the Detroit Pistons. You remember the Pistons, right? They didn’t trade us their pick that would ultimately become Jaden Ivey, but they happily took Kemba Walker, Nerlens Noel, and Alec Burks off our payroll to clear up cap space for none other than the man who took point on the blowout they just suffered: Jalen Brunson.

And what’s better is Brunson was not the only Knicks athlete to play a pivotal role in the Michig-annihilation. But we’ll get to that.

Back on track?

Unfortunately for you (the reader), I’m going to be using a lot of puns in this article because I haven’t written in months and I have to get this off my chest while I can. Detroit “fell off the tracks” pretty quickly in this contest. Both teams were playing at a moderate pace through the first half, but only because New York was cooking up it’s best serving of whoop ass on a slow boil.

Julius Randle, while still a bit questionable with his shot selection, looked to be deferring the ball to Brunson a lot and, surprisingly, staying active on loose balls and messed up plays. He also didn’t fall victim to any of the lazy take fouls he committed in seasons past — at least not that I had seen.

Julius Randle stands with his arms on his hips.
Randle’s future is in question, but tonight’s game was reassuring he can turn a new leaf. Photo Credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Take this information with a grain of salt, but Randle finished with an efficient 15 points, four assists, and six rebounds and a +18 on the box score. The Pistons are by no means a super power in the league, but it’s not like they didn’t give New York trouble last season… especially Randle.

Detroit lost steam, but perhaps Randle is… back on track?

Canada’s Finest

The man, the myth, the legend. The Maple Mamba made his presence known after a slow start, finishing with 21 points on over 50% FG and 60% 3PT.

RJ Barrett hasn’t been the flashiest player with his crossovers, step backs, or what have you, but he’s always found a way to make viewers see some kind of potential. Even the worst of haters had to have enjoyed this one.

Barrett showed poise and balance on a number of his rim attacks, jumpers, and fast breaks, as we’ve all hoped he could develop over the years, and from the looks of it, he’s made that progress.

Optimism is high after tonight. And if you could believe it, Tom Thibodeau only played him 23 minutes!

Et cetera

We can close this discussion out by admiring what we witnessed tonight. An offense that was fluid, defense that was meaningful, and a team that actually looked put together for a change. The ideal recipe for Knicks fans to take in after months of wondering how they’d look out there.

Preseason action is, of course, a much different level of competition than full NBA intensity, and the Knicks have had their fair share of preseason greatness result in overwhelming disappointment in the regular season before. I don’t think this season has us sulking at the end.

Which brings me back to the mentioning of Brunson at the start.

Brunson made plays tonight that I haven’t seen a single point guard not named Derrick Rose do for New York what Brunson was doing against Detroit. Keep in mind that I’ve only been a fan since 2011, so Jeremy Lin and Raymond Felton are really the only other point guards I’ve seen in real time. Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Chris Duhon, Chauncey Billups. I didn’t watch these guys in their time in New York, so what they brought to New York is not relevant to my fandom in a way.

It was reassuring seeing passing plays with positive results due to the defense collapsing. It was nice seeing a point guard take a difficult shot with limited shot clock time and not having to groan in disgust. Brunson is not going to be some championship builder, and if you think Knicks fans have considered that a possibility, you’re choosing to be a clown.

By the way, shoutout Derrick Rose. He missed so much time last season, and had he not, I think we could safely assume the Knicks don’t fall apart the way they did. Having returned to a genuinely impressive weight, Rose looks as revitalized as Jon Snow was.

Final Take

There is always work to be done. Achieving consistency and focus will be key to the Knicks’ success this year, as well as trusting in the point guard to create for the team and intimidate the opposition.

Randle needs to put his money where his mouth is after the leadership comments he made the other day as well. Put on display that you can be level headed in the hardest of times and modest in the best.

“The Knicks are gonna shock the world.”

Barrett has to shed the stigma of his mediocrity among the fanbase and NBA fanbase as a whole. With the extension he rightfully earned, he’ll need to show out with maximum efficiency and impact right out of the gates.

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