There’s a sense of optimism and motivation amongst the New York Knicks heading into the 2022-2023 NBA season despite the outside criticism amongst the media.
R.J. Barrett, who is now heading into his 4th NBA season, believes this Knicks roster is full of players who have something to prove, including himself. Barrett also believes this year’s roster could exceed the media’s expectations of them. Most media outlets expect the Knicks to compete for a spot in the play-in tournament at the end of the season.
“We’re really coming with that mindset, and definitely think we’re gonna shock the world,” Barrett said.
After a surprise playoff appearance during the 2020-2021 NBA season, the Knicks were expected to keep the momentum going with the offseason additions of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker in 2021. But the Knicks took a step back in 2021-2022, finishing last season with a 37-45 record as the 11th seed, failing to make the play-in tournament, let alone the playoffs.
How the Knicks will shock the world was left open to interpretation but based on the energy of the players during media day, this is a team that believes they can make it back to the playoffs despite a couple of major trades in the Eastern Conference (Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks and Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers).
However, the Knicks have their work cut out for them if they want to reach that goal. Along with the Hawks and Cavaliers, the Knicks will have to deal with young and hungry teams such as the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, and the Washington Wizards in the fight for playoff (or play-in) position.
One factor that can help the Knicks make it back to the playoffs is accountability which was a major theme throughout the Knicks’ media day.
Derrick Rose, a former MVP now entering his 14th season in the NBA said, “I think what this year’s all about is accountability. Like being able to not get in your feelings or taking it personal when somebody comes over and gives you constructive criticism. As a man and as a professional, you’re supposed to understand that. Talk s—t back to each other or you get mad, but you leave it on the court after practice or after that game or after that moment so it doesn’t prolong itself.”
Rose’s comments sounded like a message to Julius Randle who at times displayed poor body language, whether it was toward the referees when a call didn’t go his way or by the bench in a disagreement with a teammate.
Based on his answers on media day, Randle seems to have grown in this area.
“I learned a lot, it’s easy to be a leader when things are going good, when it’s not, it’s even more important, I learned a lot,” Randle said.
Speaking of accountability, Rose has also found a new way to hold himself accountable. Rose spent the offseason slimming down his physique which he showed off at the press conference.
But before Rose could hold himself accountable, head coach Tom Thibodeau was the first to hold him accountable. Through email, Thibodeau challenged Rose to lose weight, a challenge Rose took personally.
“I heard it when he first said it, like he mentioned to me, your weight. I’m like, ‘Bruh.’ I got offended in a way,” Rose said.
Rose cut sugar from his diet and sacrificed snacking on chips and chocolate cookies at nights which he admits was hard, especially as a father of young children.
“He (Thibodeau) saw the way I ate in the past. At the time he was saying it, I knew it was a huge step for me, too,” Rose said.
Taking that step tested his discipline throughout the summer, particularly when traveling.
“It was a challenge to go the whole summer, this is the most I ever traveled this summer. Traveling places and being in nice spots and not being able to eat what you want and watching everything you eat, watching carbs and everything, it’s hard,” Rose said.
Rose now weighs 195 pounds, his weight as a rookie during the 2008-2009 season. Rose described his transformation as “a blessing” and admitted that he hasn’t felt this healthy in a long time.
Another theme throughout the media day was the acquisition of Jalen Brunson and his fit with fellow lefties Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett.
Many have questioned how the trio will work because of their left-hand dominance and their tendencies to score from the inside first. Randle provided an insider’s perspective on how the trio will work together.
“We’ll learn how to play off each other…think the biggest thing is we’ll be playing fast & a lot of movement…that’ll create spacing. We’ll all have to sacrifice & create spacing…we’ve all gotten better at shooting,” Randle said.
Brunson, the $104 million man, had a clear message for the Knicks faithful. “I’m not a savior in any way, shape, or form. I just want to be able to contribute to the team,” Brunson said.
Brunson may not be a savior but he gives the Knicks a crafty floor general who can create for himself and others. The main question with him will be whether or not he can replicate last season’s performance under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden as a full-time starter.
As for expectations of this year’s version of the New York Knicks, they look like a play-in team on paper. But that doesn’t mean they can’t overachieve like they did two seasons ago. For the Knicks to accomplish that, some major keys consist of the play of Julius Randle (which version of him is going to show up?), the development of R.J. Barrett, and their bench production.
In the meantime, the Knicks will host their first preseason game against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday October 4th at Madison Square Garden.
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