The Knicks have already survived a slippery slope. They lost five in a row not long ago, their record turned upside down, 5-3 to 5-8, and looked a little dizzying and very overmatched almost every time they took the floor. And we’re seen where it’s taken them the last few years.
Then the Knicks went into Boston and stunned the Celtics.
Came home and held Magic on MLK Day.
Flew west to begin a four-game western swing and in the lid lifter trampled the Warriors. And suddenly 5-8 was back to 8-8, the Knicks looked like they had looked across the season’s first eight games, looked hungry and angry and eager to surprise almost everyone around the NBA, starting with the fragile skeptics who calls New York home.
It was only six days ago.
Now the Knicks are coming home again after being knocked out by the Jazz, 1
They come home three games under .500 again with the eyes of a been there, done – the fanbase sincerely hopes they are not about to see more of the same. In fact, it is the inevitable rhythm of a season where one expected so little, so little expected. The grinding catches up with everyone, especially teams that play with a talent gap every night.
So now, for the second time in a week and a half, we’re learning a little bit about the Knicks, who get the Cavaliers and Clippers back home, traveling to Chicago for a two-way swing with the Bulls, then came back to the yard for a difficult back-to-back with the Blazers and Heat between now and the Super Bowl Sunday.
We learn something new about the Knicks, it seems, with every game, with every home, with every car ride, with every winning streak, with every losing glide. It is the learning curve of youth. And it now appears in full. Such is Tom Thibodeau’s mission. Such is the team’s challenge.
“The games keep coming and the challenges keep coming,” Thibodeau said late Tuesday night, not looking too pleased with how the Knicks fell out of the net the last three games out west.
“You have to be ready. Whatever your schedule is, find a way to win. Will you try to continue to build the right habits. In the NBA, everyone has difficult stretches, and that’s how you handle it. We have jumped back before. We have to jump back in again. ”
Jazz won for the ninth time in a row after turning red-hot after jumping a big lead for the Knicks in the Garden on January 6th. In many ways, they represent something of a plan for the Knicks, a team that has steadily grown into a Western conference power by using a basketball plan as old as pick-and-roll: smart drafting, smart action, smart signing, smart coaching.
“They are well composed,” Thibodeau said with admiration in his voice clearly.
Because the Knicks are a large market team with the power of Madison Square Garden behind them, there will always be the looming hope that an acquisition of an effect can finally catapult them wherever they want to go. This despite many years of evidence to the contrary.
So it’s probably not a bad idea for Leon Rose and the rest of the team’s brass to adopt a plan B. And the jazz plan is so successful that the Knicks have helped themselves to a couple of Utah architects in Walt Perrin, now Rose’s assistant, and Johnnie Bryant, now one of Thibodeau’s lieutenants.
Utah coach Quin Snyder has a uniform makeup like Thibodeau, he won pretty much during his first period as head coach of college in Missouri and has steadily built a quiet power in Salt Lake City, going 206-98 since the start of the 2016-17 season .
“These guys are taking the business of winning very seriously,” Snyder said last week.
You could see Thibodeau come up with something very similar when the time is right and the team is right. For now, they are trying to stay afloat. Currently, the steps are much more modest. Jazz is at a point where they have a season to enjoy. The Knicks have a season to save.