Maybe the solution to what ails the New York Knicks is simpler than we think.
The underwhelming season continues for the New York Knicks.
As I write this, the team has just lost 120-105 to the Toronto Raptors. Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and Nerlens Noel all missed the game due to health and safety protocols. The Knicks gave up 40 points in the third quarter and were out-rebounded 44-30.
Hell, why watch Jurassic Park when you could just watch this game’s highlights?
All jokes aside, there is a greater problem facing this New York Knicks team. Yes, several key players have missed time with COVID recently, but the Knicks have been struggling for a while now. Chemistry is off, the new identity established last year is all but out the window, and it seems literally nothing is going right, even in games they win.
We could diagnose the team’s scoring woes, Julius Randle’s regression, and everything in between six ways to Sunday. Yet, something tells this writer the solution is simpler than that.
What if the New York Knicks stepped on the court, said damn the result, and just had some good old-fashioned fun?
The New York Knicks have no energy
It doesn’t take any immense basketball IQ to say the Knicks have looked flat most of the year. In their defense, this isn’t entirely their fault.
For one, having multiple players in the protocols has to wear on a team, even for the fully vaccinated Knicks. Just the dreadful inevitability that, in all likelihood, a teammate is going to miss time. Now, just when key players like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley have returned, even more important contributors in Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson are out.
Cut to Sunday’s game at Toronto and Friday’s awful, awful loss at Oklahoma City, and there’s a common theme with New York. Everyone is going out expecting to struggle and/or have a rough game. There is no winning attitude from anyone. Is rust a factor for some, namely Barrett? Absolutely, but that doesn’t excuse the team’s overall effort.
The fact that the Knicks trailed the lowly Detroit Pistons by as many as 14 last week and also had trouble with the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves says it all.
Before they take any steps forward, everyone needs a full mental reset.
Where’s the fun?
Pivoting away from hoops, let’s focus on one particular moment from everyone’s favorite TV comedy, Ted Lasso. We’ll recall that in the second season, team captain and signature tough Isaac McAdoo is letting AFC Richmond’s struggles affect his leadership. As a result, Coach Lasso and former Richmond captain Roy Kent take him to an astroturf pitch under a highway where the neighborhood kids play.
Roy gives Isaac a simple tip which I’ll clean up for the sake of keeping it PG: Stop worrying about looking like a strong leader and have some fun on the field. Here on the playground, nobody cares how good or bad their form is on a given day. They’re just playing the game because they love it and, as far as they’re concerned, it’s the best in the world.
Such is every NBA player’s path to the main stage. Only by falling in love with basketball from the start were they able to devote themselves to their craft. The competition aspect of everything was just something they learned along the way. At the end of the day, they play basketball because of the immense joy they have at putting the ball through that hoop via a deep three, powerful dunk, or even a simple jumper.
Why can’t the New York Knicks embrace this same approach? They’re taking good shots, but they’re just not falling. Even during a recent three-game winning streak, New York’s strong defensive effort was overshadowed by struggles on offense.
If that’s not a team stuck in a mental funk, then what is it?
The Knicks next face the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, then have an important back-to-back with the rival Boston Celtics.
If there’s ever a time for the team to loosen up and bounce back, it’s now.