Using House Money
The last two decades haven’t exactly been a whole lot of fun if you are a fan of the New York Knicks.
Plenty of dysfunction combined with a whole lot of losing put the franchise in a predicament going into the 2020-2021 season, where the bar was set perhaps at an all-time low.
The Knicks season win total in Vegas for a 70-plus game season was in the low 20’s and expectations were minimal.
Well, a lot has changed in a year.
The Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau last summer, and in many ways he’s the true architect of this remarkable franchise turnaround.
Coach Thibs established a culture, and his players bought. It became obvious very early in the season that this team was not going to be the Same Old Knicks.
The Knicks compete nightly. The players have taken on the personality of their hardworking head coach.
Team MVP Julius Randle put together an All-Star season and the best of his professional career. RJ Barrett made a gigantic leap from a solid rookie season to an even better second year.
The professionalism of Derrick Rose combined with the shot-making ability of Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks has provided much needed competence in the back court.
The fact that you can pinpoint the growth and development of multiple players on the roster throughout the season speaks volumes to the job the coaching staff has done.
The Knicks defense has been the calling card of this team all season, but look at the improvements regarding ball movement and three-point shooting.
The improved offensive play has been the catalyst to their incredible surge over the final 20 games of the season.
The Knicks finished 10 games over .500 and will host a playoff series. Who in their right mind could have imagined that before the start of the season?
Up first in round one this weekend is the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks bring two specific challenges to the table: the shooting skills of guard Trey Young and the size of Clint Capela and John Collins.
Atlanta has been a red-hot team in the second half of the season and played much better under interim head coach Nate McMillian.
The Knicks must be able to neutralize Young and control the pace in order to win this series. It’s a manageable ask.
Of the potential first-round opponents, Atlanta is by far and away the most winnable series for the Knicks.
Vegas says it’s basically a pick‘em series.
I’ll take the playoff-tested head coach and the team with home-court advantage to keep the feel-good ride going.
My money is on, yes, the Knicks in six.
You can listen to my NEW Podcast on all things NY Sports “New York, New York” on The Ringer. Download and subscribe on Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.