The Knicks easily handled Kevin Love and the Cavs on the road, as the return home and prepare to greet LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday.

The New York Knicks (12-32), far from home and outside hallowed Madison Square Garden, where they normally play their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game, demolished the lowly Cavaliers (12-32) in Cleveland, 106-86.

You’d think all would be well. However, this was a very ho-hum type of win. Fans barely seemed enthused. I wonder why that is?

It may have something to do with the fact that the veterans get the bulk of the minutes in what was supposed to be—for the third consecutive year—a season dedicated to developing the franchise’s young draft picks. For the third consecutive season, what is happening on the floor is not what the front office sold the fans. I refuse to get hung up on the Marcus Morris or Julius Randle’s respective minutes, but let’s check the rest:

  • Taj Gibson: 20:35 minutes
  • Reggie Bullock: 29:59 minutes
  • Elfrid Payton: 28:27 minutes
  • Bobby Portis: 20:40 minutes
  • Mitchell Robinson: 27:25 minutes
  • Frank Ntilikina: 19:33 minutes
  • Kevin Knox: 15:12 minutes
  • Damyean Dotson: 20:59 minutes

Now, this is not me trying to bash any players, or even compliment their play (yet. We’ll get there). This is about simply letting your draft picks play the bulk of the minutes in a rebuilding season. It’s a small ask. Nearly every other NBA franchise that’s rebuilding does this. For whatever reason, the Knicks are enamored with trying to perpetually win-now with players who have only lost games. Not tonight, sure, but there’s no reason for Kevin Knox to only play 15 minutes a night. This is coming from me, noted and longtime Knox skeptic, but even if you think he stinks, he should play. How else is he going to learn and adjust? Watching?

That’s my central gripe. Don’t mean to drag down the vibes, but entering the game tonight fans were bummed about the veterans starting again, as was I.

In defense of the vets, if even just for a night, they played well against a mostly hapless Cavaliers team.

Marcus Morris continued to be a bright spot, posting 19 points on 50% shooting and 40% from deep. Julius Randle gave us a light 19 and nine against Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, though Thompson still ate on the glass with a ridiculous 22-rebound effort. Taj Gibson gave us 10 and five, and a block. Reggie Bullock continued his solid play, and Payton did a little bit of everything tonight and generally looked pretty good. New York’s point-guard rotation, Payton and Ntilikina, helped hold the Cavs young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland to a combined 10-of-40 from the field. That’s the ballgame right there.

A win is always good. It’s enjoyable to watch competent basketball players like Morris on this team. The issue is it doesn’t happen enough to justify committing to the vets, unless you’re shopping them. The only way this makes sense is if the Knicks are planning on selling off most of their veteran assets, but that’s a bit overt. At what point do a few extra wins off the backs of veterans start to harm the development of the kids?

Though I am still complaining in a win, I will say this: There’s something to be said for watching a Knicks victory without the stress of potentially losing the game, and it coming on a date of importance—a date when the Knicks always play. I’m glad they got the MLK Day win, I just hope it’s the last win of this veteran styling we see. Hopefully some of those vets are cleared out for assets of some type, and the Knicks can trot their kids out in big minutes freely.

For now, let’s enjoy a win that comes few and far between. We have the Lakers on deck for Wednesday night. We need to be in a good and rowdy mood to welcome King James back to MSG for the first time since Mario Hezonja blocked the soul out of LeBron’s body.


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