Ben Kuchipudi ‘25
On December 4th, 2022, the New York Knicks were at rock bottom. After a strong first half at home against the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks were outscored 41-15 in the third quarter and eventually lost 121-100, falling to 10-13 on the season. The boo birds were out in full force and many fans wanted New York to lose their next game on purpose so head coach Tom Thibodeau would be fired. Little did the fans know that this date would be the day everything changed for the Knicks.
Before a Sunday matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thibodeau made a change to the rotation. He made the tough decision to bench Derrick Rose, Evan Fournier, and Cam Reddish in favor of two sophomores, Quentin Grimes and Miles “Deuce” McBride. The Knicks beat the Cavs 92-81 after this and this is where their season turned around. They rallied off eight straight wins after that and they rode this momentum all the way to a 47-35 record and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Not only that, they are currently one win away (as I’m writing this) from reaching the second round for the first time since 2013. Coincidentally enough, the team they are playing currently in the first round is the Cavs, the team they beat to start the turnaround.
What the Knicks have done since December 4th is nothing short of incredible. Since that date, the Knicks have gone 37-22 while going on multiple eight game winning streaks, the only team to accomplish that feat in the regular season. There are numerous reasons why the Knicks have had this resurgence, but I’m going to talk about three of them. The first is Julius Randle bouncing back from a horrendous 2021 campaign. He just looked lackadaisical last season, giving thumbs downs to fans and not showing any effort on both sides of the floor, and most fans wanted him traded because of this. However, he bounced back in a huge way this season, averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds while being named to his second All-Star game in three seasons. Though he’s been shaky in the playoffs coming off of a sprained ankle, what he’s done in the regular season is a huge reason why the Knicks are in the playoffs in the first place.
The second reason for this turnaround is the bench mob of the Knicks, that being Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Immanuel Quickley, newly acquired Josh Hart, high-flyer Obi Toppin, and do it all center Isaiah Hartenstein. Quickley had a shaky start to the season, but when Jalen Brunson went down with injury in late February, Quickley became the second best player on the team, notching multiple career highs in that span. He’s improved every part of his game and he is an essential part to this team. Josh Hart was acquired at the trade deadline from the Portland Trail Blazers, and he’s been an absolute menace for this team and is now a fan favorite. The energy he brings on the offensive and defensive end gives the Knicks an identity they haven’t had since the 90s. Without him, the Knicks would have likely been a play-in team, but his presence alone puts them among the East’s best.
Obi Toppin doesn’t get a ton of playing time, but when he’s on the floor he makes an impact. Whether it’s his rim rocking dunks or spot up shooting, Obi finds a way to get the crowd on their feet. Finally, Isaiah Hartenstein probably gets the least credit out of anyone on the Knicks. Most non-Knicks fans probably don’t even know who he is, but he is a crucial part of the bench mob. His interior defense, rebounding, and crafty passing is a luxury to have, and he just makes the offense flow. The Knicks are one of the deepest teams in the league, and I haven’t even gotten to RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Mitchell Robinson.
The final reason for why the Knicks are this good and will be good for years to come is two words: Jalen Brunson. Many clowned the Knicks for giving Brunson a huge contract, but without him, the Knicks wouldn’t have even sniffed the playoffs. The Knicks have lacked a competent point guard since the 90s and Brunson has been much more than competent. He’s the go-to guy in the clutch and he takes the pressure off of Julius Randle, something the Knicks lacked the last few seasons. He’s been the best player in this current Cavs-Knicks series, and if the Knicks want to go far in the playoffs, Brunson is going to be the guy to lead them there.
As a Knicks fan, it’s beautiful and kind of emotional to watch what they’re doing this season. The media clowned them for not trading for Donovan Mitchell, and now they are one game away from eliminating Mitchell and his Cavs and advancing to the second round, and with the Miami Heat up 3-1 on the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the Knicks have a good chance of reaching their first conference final since 2000 and even their first NBA final for the first time since they were an eight seed in 1999. I can confidently say this is the best Knicks team since the 90s, and for the first time in a decade, I’m proud to be a fan of this team.
Featured image courtesy of nba.com/Knicks
Leave a Reply