The Knicks are still facing a “deep rebuild” and a no-quick fix

Well, this much we can say with some certainty:

It’s not all #30’s fault.

The debris of this 2021-22 Knicks season cannot be draped solely around Julius Randle’s shoulders, nor can it be thrown entirely at his feet. Logically, you would think that most Knicks fans understood and understand that. But when you won a losing season 10 days before April Fool’s Day, logic doesn’t play much into the equation.

When a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter dissolves beneath the reality — make it the inevitability — of a 22-6 run and the Hawks ramp up to .500 with a 117-111 win, sanity is out first emotion selection.

Randle didn’t play Tuesday night. There were big swatches of the game where it didn’t look like the Knicks missed him. But there were bigger patches, and the main ones, where the Knicks looked exactly as they had, with or without him, all year.

“We’re understaffed,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. “It’s not just Julius. We miss Derrick [Rose]Nerlens [Noel]. And it gives other guys a chance.”

It’s best for Randle that things went the way they did, otherwise factions of Knicks fans on talk radio and social media would have ramped up to 11 on Wednesday. In fact, it would only have masked the harsh reality the Knicks must have already come to terms with – players, coaches, brass.

The Knicks lost to the Hawks on Tuesday.
Jason scenes

They need urgent repairs. But will not be an easy solution. The Knicks dropped six from the last play-in game. There are still 10 games left in the season.

“The position we’re in is all the games you have to have,” said Thibodeau. “But you’re not eliminated until you’re eliminated.”

Let the arithmetic argue otherwise. It’s been weeks since we started looking at the Knicks through the prism of next year and years to come, not the present. The Knicks need to do more than shed a star player, if that’s even on Leon Rose’s to-do list. There is a lack of skills in this squad. There are some gems. With RJ Barrett (30 points, 13 rebounds) a franchise property is coming up.

But there is still so much broken about this team. The Garden sold out Tuesday night, but it hardly felt like it; After losing 45 to the Knicks Trae Young, modern-day Reggie Miller nonchalantly said, “It wasn’t that loud in here.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau
Jason scenes

It was not. And think about it:

Just 303 days earlier, this had been the hottest ticket in town and these two teams were the talk of the town. It was a Sunday, just like the old days, and it felt like the old days at Madison Square Garden, whether your definition of “old days” is the ’90s or the ’70s (or both).

“You can feel the electricity,” Thibodeau said that afternoon. “This is how it should feel here.”

It all started to go wrong for the Knicks that Sunday night at the Garden when Young introduced himself as Reggie 2.0 and the Hawks stole Game 1, a prelude to a five-game gentleman’s sweep. With the blessing of hindsight, it’s now easy to watch this Hawks series and see exactly what was in store for the Knicks.

The Knicks are on the bench in Tuesday’s loss to the Hawks.
Jason scenes

After playing excellent defense all year, the Hawks got what they wanted against the Knicks (in May and again on Tuesday night). Young was everywhere, and he was fearless even when the garden tried to invade his head (in May and again on Tuesday night). And perhaps most puzzling of all, Thibodeau seemed unable to figure out the buttons to press to flip things the other way. In May. At Tuesday evening. And really, about so much of this rolling blackout disappointment of a season.

“We had a sense of urgency throughout the year,” Barrett said. “We’re just fighting. Some of those games have slipped away, but there’s nothing to do but get better every day.”

And be better next year. Rose needs to see that this still falls under the deep rebuild category. The simple disappearance of Julius Randle might have allowed Knicks fans to maximize their endorphins by making a man pay for that misery. That didn’t work on Tuesday evening. You can’t do that this summer when Rose wants to fix this mess.

And man. Does it need to be repaired. The Knicks are still facing a “deep rebuild” and a no-quick fix


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