Knicks Implode to End the Season


The Knicks throw away another season. (Courtesy of Twitter)

As the NBA regular season begins to draw to a close, the New York Knicks look like a shell of the scrappy, young and promising team they once were. After beginning the season somewhat strong, a midseason collapse ended any hopes for a second straight playoff appearance. The Knicks have lost 17 of their last 20games and, with a record of 25-38, they are currently the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference. With only 19  games left in the season, it may be best for the Knicks to throw in the towel and look toward improving for next season. 

The Knicks’ spiral out of control has only been made worse by recent developments with their star players. Coach Tom Thibodeau announced late last month that the team would be benching point guard Kemba Walker for the rest of the season. Walker will now have only played 37 games in his first season with the Knicks. The news appears strange at first, since Walker was averaging a solid 11.6 points per game and shooting 40% from the field. While these stats are not incredible, it would seem the Knicks gave up too early on a player they acquired for nearly $35 million. 

However, the move becomes clearer when you analyze his effect on the team overall. Before injuries sidelined him in late November, the Knicks ranked dead last in defensive rating while Walker was on the court; when he was on the bench, they ranked first. Similarly on offense, they ranked 27th with him playing and ninth overall when he was not. With these statistics in mind, it seems that the decision was made due to his effect on team success rather than his individual performances. 

The decision to bench Walker made more sense when it seemed as though Derrick Rose would soon be back from ankle surgery to fill the gap at point guard. Rose underwent surgery in late December, with an expected return of about eight weeks after that. Then, in late February, his return was pushed back after another surgery that the team deemed a “minor procedure.” Rose recently traveled with the team to Phoenix, but was limited to shoot arounds before the game with no jumping or real basketball movements. Although Thibodeau is hopeful that Rose could return to play before the season is over, this would simply be too little too late.

Further controversy and frustration arose after Friday’s deflating loss to the Suns. Despite leading by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Knicks still lost the game on a last second three point buzzer beater by Cameron Johnson. Adding insult to injury, Knicks forward Julius Randle was ejected with less than three minutes left after an altercation with Johnson in which he shoved a referee attempting to diffuse the situation. 

On top of the ejection, Randle was fined $50,000 for making contact with an official and subsequently refusing to cooperate with the league investigation. This is the third time this season he has been fined for his actions. Earlier in the season, Randle was fined $25,000 and forced to apologize following backlash he faced for giving fans at Madison Square Garden a thumbs down. Earlier in the season fans booed Randle due to performance issues, prompting him to give the gesture he described as telling the fans to “shut the f—- up.” Randle was a fan favorite last year when the Knicks made an appearance in the postseason, and was even awarded Most Improved Player for the 2020-21 season. 

RJ Barrett has seemingly been the only glimmer of hope for the team this year. Some have speculated that his success as a rising star has made Randle jealous, affecting team chemistry. What is known for sure is that Barrett is not enough on his own to lead New York to victory. Substantial changes will need to be made in order for the Knicks to return to at least competency. Although the team made a first round exit in the playoffs last year, the future looked bright. Hopefully we see them return to that level next season, leaving this season behind as nothing more than a distant memory.