New York Knicks: Surprising First Round Exit Awaiting?

Andrew Bondarev ‘22

After a shocking season in which Julius Randle and Derrick Rose demonstrated their talents on a team desperately in need of a revival, the New York Knicks have found themselves in the NBA playoffs. This has been the first time in eight years that they have reached this point, with the last playoff series being a loss to the Indiana Pacers in the second round. The pain of the New York Knicks fan since that moment knows no bounds, there have been years of disappointment with accusations all around. 

Starting with the blame of James Dolan, fans and analysts have used many individuals as scapegoats in this process of failure. Carmelo Anthony went from the hero of New York to the reason why the team won one playoff series in eight years. Moreover, the blame reached Phil Jackson and later Kristaps Porzingis accompanied by David Fizdale, which has proven to be an arduous and fruitless outlook for a Knicks future.

Emerging from relative obscurity, Leon Rose became a candidate for Executive of the Year in 2021 through his work with the Knicks. With little hope for the future, fans were not excited with the hiring of the NBA agent as the president of the New York Knicks. However, his work to hire defensive head coach Tom Thibodeau was a turning point in the summer of 2020, as his previous success with the Chicago Bulls has proven him as a resilient and passionate coach. Known for his hard-nosed approach to the game, Knicks fans began to see a glimmer of hope in the fog.

The Knicks have long had coaches and teams that have not been physically intimidating to the rest of the league, especially defensively. This all has changed in the 2021 regular season, with a team that marched to the 4th seed through a top-rated defense. With a strong group of forwards in the paint such as Randle, Toppin, Robinson, Gibson, and Noel, the Knicks combine these big men with high-output guards. This is not a team worried about playing too many minutes or gassing out mid-game.

Despite the energized fans behind them and a team hungry for success, the Knicks are down 3-1 to Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks at the time of this article. With Game 5 on June 3rd to solidify whether they will survive or lose their hopes of playoff advancement, the Atlanta Hawks have had little trouble with the Knicks’ strategies on defense and offense. Clint Capela has stated some infamous words in the past few days that have been taken personally by the Knicks players, “We’ll send you on vacation.” If the plan is to prove Capela wrong, certain players will be key to the Knicks’ survival in this series and general success moving forward beyond the series.

Julius Randle

His efficiency will absolutely need to be increased for the Knicks to have a chance moving forward, previously torching the Hawks in their three regular season matchups for an average of 37 points per game. His work in the post is unmatched on this Knicks team, and his three-point game has undoubtedly been improved in comparison to last year. It is an understatement that he is the leader of this team, and should absolutely be re-signed regardless of his performance in Game 5. 

Derrick Rose

His greatest performance in a Knicks uniform has arguably been in Game 3, with a 30-6-5 statline. His isolation moves have carried the Knicks offense as well as his facilitation to three-point shooters like Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks. No longer stunted by the Phil Jackson-era triangle offense Knicks of his past tenure in the city that never sleeps, Derrick Rose has performed consistently in these playoff games thus far unlike other players on the team. Retaining his explosive abilities and layups, Rose’s connection to coach Thibodeau has been a driving force towards Knicks success after his trade mid-season.