Every season in the NBA there is a team that shocks the fans while last season it was Miami Heat, this season it has to be the New York Knicks as they are fourth in the rankings in the Western Conference and are close to securing a playoff spot for the first time in last seven years in the league.
A lot of credit goes to Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau who is a very experienced coach and has changed the overall dynamics at the franchise. Recently Thibodeau spoke to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols highlighting the primary reasons for this successful regular season.
He said, “Looking at the players we had, I knew we’d have to first make a commitment to play for each other, to work hard, play smart, and to build the right habits… You can’t say enough about what Julius Randle has done. He has had an MVP-type season, just the impact on winning, his leadership. Then we have a number of other players step up… RJ Barrett having a terrific season.”
The 63-year old coach thanked the team owner James Dolan and the team management for understanding and bringing in the exact players that were needed for this season. He also added that the team has become a lot better defensively.
“I saw the commitment by our players in the practice, how they were playing around. So as the ball, paint [indiscernible] cover the line. So even though the shots, the so-called experts were charting, you don’t know who is doing the charting. You don’t know how quickly those closeouts are occurring. But I saw the way we were challenging shots and the way we can make up ground quickly, and I felt like we would be good defensively. We became a multiple effort team, the guys were tight together.”
It is very shocking to see such bonding among the players as some of them from the starting five have only played a year extra before this season. Players like Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, Reggie Bullock was already at the franchise. Thibs only brought in pieces like Nerlens Noel and veteran Derrick Rose and it is shocking how this handful of personnel changes have made them a great defensive unit.
Thibs and the players will be hoping to that this season way beyond just qualifying for the playoffs after a long time. If they continue playing like this then they can challenge some top teams in the playoffs this season.