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Thoughts on the Knicks 20-21 Season

It took me a while to put fingers to the keyboard for these thoughts because quite frankly, this hurt. Yes! Despite the obvious clarity of the inevitable result, the elimination of my New York Knicks really gutted me for a few days. I found myself ignoring columns, podcasts, and of course, sports radio because I just knew whatever rhetoric or narratives being pushed through those mediums (most of them) were going to be filled with gotcha-hot-takes, absurd responses, and over-the-top analysis that have little to do with true basketball dissection and more about producing engaging content (nonsense). 

Julius Randle is NOT a number 1 option - he proved that this series!!!!

The season ended as a failure - a bad taste after what was built up all year! 

It might be time to move Randle and Barrett for a legit star!!! 

Ahhhh yes, you just gotta love the reaction of some...

Here's the truth - the Atlanta Hawks just had more talent than us. Actually, they are damn good, tremendously deep, and well-coached. In fact, Nate McMillan deserves tons of credit for turning that ship around and for all of the schemes he installed in this series against the Knicks. 

The Hawks in almost all of their rotations had legit scorers at all five positions on the floor. The Knicks were unable to do that, or defend that. 

That's it -The Hawks were just better. 

Here are some really quick thoughts on this amazing Knicks 20-21 season:

NEW YORK DISTRACTION

It was easy to fall in love with this team this year. Coming off of an emotional time for this area and this city marred with death, economic loss, uncertainty, migration away from it (like yours truly), and a blow to the ever glowing buzz that is New York City, these Knicks and their season ran parallel with New York as it rebounded out of this pandemic. 

So many of us New Yorkers dealt with everything the pandemic delivered, including the death, mental health hits, and various other effects it has had on our lives, and the lives of our loved ones. 

In the midst of politics, nationalism identities, and yes, the ongoing mask debate, so many forget, aren't aware, or are just flat out oblivious to the trauma and experience that was COVID-19 and this area. 

The Knicks weren't expected to do anything - ANYTHING! - this season. It was supposed to be a hopeless cause set for another year of hoping for a top draft pick and haplessly watching the Nets be everything we've wanted to be for the past twenty years. 

However, every night we saw progression, fight, development, and hope - damn it, HOPE! The New York Knicks played out like the best drama series that paralleled real life in so many ways. A true organic and relatable team that was easy to root for with its misfit collection of write-offs. 

No one will admit it, but the Knicks did EVERYTHING a team in its position at the beginning of the year should - and could - do in order to set itself up for success:

  • Develop young talent
  • Integrate the correct veterans
  • Produce an All-Star
  • Compete
  • Create a culture
It was easy for anyone to throw themselves into the ongoing saga, an outright distraction that collectively was ours long before the talking-head media recognized or even understood what this was, or is. 

Some still don't. 

From sirens, over-crowded hospitals, being the "epicenter" to being the first in-door building to pack 14,000+ for an event - this Knicks season provided a lot of distraction for many.

This was a special year - easily one of my favorite Knicks groups in my lifetime. You would have to be utterly irrational to determine this Knicks season as anything other than a success. 

KNICKS FOR CLICKS


It surely was interesting seeing the media attempt to cover the Knicks this season. There would be an occasional "the Knicks are doing well!" comment followed by a jab predicting their demise. Or, you would get the "this is a nice story, but the Knicks aren't for real" statements. 

I say this not as a bitter Knicks fan who has had to endure being the brunt of many NBA jokes for years. We deserved it. But there is a difference between our own incompetence and the coverage that countlessly attaches free agent stories to our fan base for their own sensationalism in order to set up future talking points when said Knicks don't acquire the falsely created free agent narratives. See: Giannis Antetekounpo 

Or yes, the same talking heads who blasted the signing of Julius Randle, then applauded him, and now, are tearing down his value.

Orrrrrrrrrrrrr...destroyed us for the Porzingis trade. Hmmm...

So yeah, this season was truly something special to watch as so many struggled to cope with and to recalibrate an old trick they've gone to for so long. Another reason this felt special was that this was ours - for all of the Knicks fans who truly stuck with this horrific franchise.


I so loved everything about this. For real, stupid ass question, bro. 

JU - THE MAN! 

I'm a big fan of Julius Randle. I'll just say it. Everything that he has accomplished this year is a great story because he earned it - it's always easy to attach yourself to a guy that has worked for it, gets the results from it, and at the same time, has tangible leadership qualities that made his team better. 

The Knicks are not the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs without Julius Randle. 

I don't buy into the "he's a second or third option" narrative either after the series with the Hawks. It's such an inconclusive and incomplete theory. The Hawks doubled him and prevented him from getting to his spots that made him successful all year - a damn good strategy to sum it up. 

I just don't see how anyone can watch Randle take the jump that he did this year and then suddenly label him as a final project, and not believe he could take another jump this off-season, or at the least, improve and adjust from what he saw in that Hawks series. It just doesn't make sense. 

NOTHING BEATS EXPERIENCE

In the realm of talking improvements, does anyone disagree that playoff basketball is the best teacher for guys like Randle, Barrett, and co? 

Again, miss me with all of that tanking talk. This is what this club needed, and I fully expect them to utilize this going forward. RJ Barrett's comments provides some surety to this thought:
Shoot, I’m 20. I’m hoping to be here a very long time and winning many more games, making more playoffs get championships. I think this is a really good experience for us. It was a lot of our first times in the playoffs and now what we know what to expect in it, we can come back hungry for more after the summer.


REAL COACH

So much applause to Tom Thibeduou. He can't wear PPE gear properly (like at all), but the guy can squeeze the most out of a ball club. 

I'm still so incredibly confused about the loyalty to Elfrid Payton, though. 

:::big shoulder shrug:::

CAN HE DEVELOP?

By the way, RJ Barrett has come along in his sophomore season. I'm not sure what so many expect from him, but the dude has put up solid numbers. Is he Ja Morant or Zion Williamson? No. 

However, his numbers do compare quite favorably where if you had to re-draft that class, he would probably go third - again. Huh, imagine that? 

The kid is just 20 years old. Unless he's moved for a big-time piece, he's definitely part of this foundation going forward. 

As for Kevin Knox - I don't think he's done, either.

ROOKIE LOVE

Immanuel Quickley was an absolute joy to watch all season. I fully expect him to get better and to trim some of those rookie mistakes or bad stretches he would go through during the season. His easiest quality to like was how fearless he plays. 

Obi Toppin was playing the best basketball of the season in the playoffs, which is a great thing. I had serious concerns about Toppin during the season and genuinely had regrets about us not selecting Tyrese Halliburton. Nonetheless, there is something there for a super athletic power forward who can rebound, run the floor, and now, shoots the three-ball. 

And oh yeah, his defense wasn't all that terrible. 

I'm excited to see more. 

I HEART TAJ GIBSON

Taj Gibson is a Brooklyn kid who plays hard, is gutty and scrappy, and is just so easy to root for. Please bring back Taj. That is all. 

Oh yeah, ditto on Derrick Rose.

THE NEXT STAR

The Knicks are in a great position to improve this team. From $50M+ in cap space, to draft picks, and improving rookies, there is a lot of assets to manage - and of course, plenty of opportunities to make some moves. 

As much as I would love to "run it back" with this squad and the addition of a few improvements (someone else at starting point guard, please!), there are too many guys who were on one-year deals who may look to cash in on their market value to do so - Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks, specifically. There are of course the rumors of guys like Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, and more looking to have a change of scenery. 

I don't know who the guy is, or even how this summer shakes out. All I hope for is that it is someone that is a fit (i.e. Thibs, Randle, plays defense) and gives us the opportunity to surround the remaining pieces with quality options. 

The Carmelo Anthony trade will forever stick with me as the recipe for doing whatever it took to get a star, just to have no plan afterward in how to make it work. 

Buying out Chauncey Billips will forever haunt me also...

However, the Knicks could also go the route of Lonzo Ball, Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Kendrick Nunn - so many options. I guess we'll see.

And finally...

BLACK JERSEYS DEBATE

Look, I had no problem with the Knicks wearing the black City Jerseys in the Garden for Game 2 against the Hawks. Would I have loved to wear the traditional home whites? Of course, but that is no longer - actually hasn't been for a couple of years now. 

I was no fan of those black jerseys, but you know what, they won quite often in them. Unlike the Knicks' attempt to go Orange

But with that said, those jerseys will be synonymous with this year - and so be it. But it's time for a better design. Please. 

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