Their record may not show it but the Knicks have been playing good basketball of late and are trending in the right direction.
The Knicks were able to reach the .500 mark on Wednesday night, improving their record to 4-4 after back-to-back victories against the Clippers and Spurs, respectively. While probably not the start they or fans hoped for, it’s not a bad place to be considering some extenuating circumstances to start the season. The Knicks have had to contend with a tough early schedule on top of key players getting off to slow starts. Seven of their first eight games have been against teams that were in the playoffs last season.
After a sluggish start, Julius Randle has put together consecutive good games and is starting to look like his old self. The recent home cooking has done Randle well, and it should come as no surprise that in a recent report by the New York Post’s Stefan Bondy, we learned that he’s still dealing with the effects of his offseason ankle surgery. Known for his refusal to take time off Randle resisted his team’s attempts to have him rest and decided to play through the pain. That decision may have hindered his and the team’s output to start, with him being less than effective before turning things around versus the Clippers and Spurs. The two-time All-Star is now trending in the right direction after his recent performances and is currently averaging a double-double and nearly five assists per game.
With Randle working to right the ship the Knicks have leaned on RJ Barrett. Early returns this season are showing that Barrett is starting to take that elusive leap. His game has hit another level to start this season. Barrett may have dodged a bullet with a lingering knee injury after missing one game but in his return to action he didn’t skip a beat, becoming the youngest Knick in history to reach 5,000 career points; an impressive milestone in what could be a memorable season for him. He isn’t just carrying the Knicks, he’s been extremely efficient in doing so. His shooting numbers are way up; so far he’s connecting on 47.4% of his baskets, a whopping 47.1% percent of his three-point attempts, and 86.7% on free throws. Now, shooting at these clips is unsustainable but it’s a tremendous sign for Barrett who’s had efficiency problems in the past.
What’s going to be a long-term storyline this season is Immanuel Quickley. It’s no secret Quickley has something to prove and he’s proving it. The Knicks would surely be in a worse position without him. He’s been the final nail in the coffin in Knick wins a couple of times already this season. Quickley’s knack for closing games late can’t be ignored. His microwave ability has kept the Knicks afloat and close in games during the early stretches of the season. He’s scored at least 18 points in half the Knicks’ games so far. Playing without an extension might prove positive for Quickley knowing that if he keeps up with this level of people he’ll just become more valuable but whether the Knicks view him as a trade chip or a long-term asset is still to be determined.
The Knick who’s probably looked the most impressive is Mitchell Robinson. He’s been a defensive juggernaut for New York. His latest victim was Victor Wembanyama. From tip-off against the Spurs in this year’s number-one pick’s first visit to The Garden, Robinson stopped the Wemby train dead in its tracks. But it’s not just shutting down aliens, Robinson’s been at it all season. He’s been dominating the glass on both sides and currently leads the league with 6.3 offensive rebounds per game. Robinson’s been a godsend for the Knicks in that respect and despite his old-school style of play he’s without a doubt one of the premier defensive bigs in the league.
While the Knicks haven’t hit the ground running record-wise, they’re starting to put things in motion. It may just be a matter of time before they’re firing on all cylinders. After getting through a difficult part of the early schedule in a stalemate there are some games on the horizon that should fatten up the win column with lesser teams on the docket.