12 days ago, the temperature around Madison Square Garden was one of inevitability. After 52 games it appeared the one constant of New York sports was about to return: Knick disappointment.
Sure, the team was still in the midst of a playoff competition but let’s be honest at 25-27, it felt much more smoke and mirrors than tangible foundation. The team had lost five out of six including three more heartbreakers in close games, with the most recent defeat being in Boston.
But then two nights later in the Garden, the team pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. RJ Barrett led a final minute to remember and all of a sudden, Knicks fans got a new feeling.
Including that game against Memphis, the team has won six straight. They sit firmly in sixth place in the East, 1.5 games above Miami and out of the play-in and seven games up on the tenth seed and final play-in spot.
Barring a catastrophe, the Knicks will see playoff basketball for the first time since 2013 and Carmelo Anthony. Instead of things like constant negativity, disappointment and frustration surrounding the organization, something new is around them, hope.
If this season the team was good just because of a Barrett explosion that would be exciting but in other ways less promising. Of course, everyone would sign up for an All-NBA player in year two but, what makes the Knicks stand out to me is this feels like a step in the right direction because of organizational stability.
Julius Randle was an All-Star this season and is in the midst of a late All-NBA push that could very likely come to fruition. Leaps like Randle took simply wouldn’t have happened in previous Knick regimes.
Under Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau, there feels like a real plan in place.
From the Immanuel Quickley selection to the subtle free agent moves with Reggie Bullock and Nerlens Noel to solidify depth, New York feels like they’re going forward. People mocked the Derrick Rose trade as a classic example of a team who’s sucked for years getting desperate to get a meaningless eight-seed.
Instead, Rose has come in and solidified the Knick bench with an important veteran presence.
About the only bad thing you can say about this year is Obi Toppin has struggled to find his place in the rotation. However, a large part of that is Randle’s ascension and it’s hard to blame the organization for not knowing that would happen.
I know Toppin has left some to be desired but he’s shooting 62 per cent from two, over 70 per cent from the line and in a year that started with him injured, ruining an already shortened training camp, it’s too early to call it on him. Knicks fans are scarred from the Kevin Knox’s of the world and I get it but this feels different for a variety of reasons.
The obvious and tangible are what I mentioned above. However, the less obvious and intangible is what is more interesting about this organization now.
Unlike the one Knox was selected to in 2018, this Knicks front office feels organized and in control. It also has a coach who has time and again proven he knows how to win games in this league.
That may sound like the bare minimum but let’s be honest, this is the Knicks. The fact we’re 58 games into the season and they aren’t in shambles tanking is front-page news.
It’s April in New York and the Knicks are streaking while the Yankees are floundering. Will this parallel universe last? Who knows.
All I know is around Madison Square Garden they should be feeling structure and hope instead of the disappointment they’ve become so used to for all these years.