Color me surprised
by John Jastremski
Feb 16, 2021 | 6139 views | 0 0 comments | 848 848 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I won't mince words: over the last 19 years, rooting for the New York Knicks has been the equivalent of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

Over and over again, the team found countless ways to embarrass itself on and off the basketball court. It's been the absolute pits.

As the Knicks entered the 2020-21 season, expectations weren't particularly high. The team's over/under for wins in Las Vegas was 23.5 for the 72-game season.

My hope was that I'd get a chance to watch a young team that plays hard and can somehow take on the personality of its new head coach.

Now 29 games into the NBA season, my expectations for the Knicks have been exceeded and then some.

The Knicks are 14-15 and 60 percent of the way toward hitting the season over. (I wish I bet the over!)

To put the progress in perspective, the Knicks won their 14th game after their 50th game of the 2019-2020 season.

Quite the difference, and trust me when I say this, the New York Knicks look and feel like a team that is seriously showing signs of progress.

It's obvious on a nightly basis. So what's the difference?

For starters, “The Thibs Effect” is in full gear. New head coach Tom Thibodeau has demanded effort, accountability and defense every game.

There are some nights the Knicks don't have it; that can happen. However, unlike other teams over the last 19 years, you never question the effort.

That's the change in mentality a new coach can bring.

Thibs’ ability to demand a certain level of effort has helped the game of Julius Randle flourish into what has been a career year for the journeymen forward.

A year ago, Julius Randle was the definition of empty statistics on a losing team. This year Julius Randle is doing everything to help the New York Knicks win ballgames.

He can get buckets, he is setting up his teammates, and playing hard constantly.

Randle is on pace to be an All-Star for the first time in his career. He deserves a ton of credit, but the coaching staff has helped him take his game to new heights.

And it's not just Julius Randle, the young players on this team have been able to flourish.

Second-year forward RJ Barrett is a better and tougher player than he was a year ago.

Rookie Immanuel Quickley has hit the ground running, and might actually turn out to be a terrific homegrown guard.

What a concept: drafting and developing players!

Now look, don't get it twisted, the Knicks have a limited ceiling in 2021.

The bar has been set so low that a team one game under .500 is getting praise. However, you have to crawl before you can walk.

If you listen to players and coaches around the NBA, there is a different tone when discussing the New York Knicks. Instead of the Knicks being a punchline, there's praise.

Think about this: recently re-acquired point guard Derrick Rose stated that the reason he wanted to return to the Knicks was that he wanted a chance to play in the postseason.

Let that sink in for a hot second!

Will Derrick Rose be a fortune teller of things to come in the spring? Who knows, but the Knicks are finally building an organization the right way.

A tough coach, a team with character and, most of all, a team New York City can actually get behind and support.

Baby steps, but it sure beats spinning your wheels.

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