GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It is a new day for the New York Knicks.
That was the collective message by the Knicks on Monday during media day at the team’s training center.
Coming off a 2020-21 season in which New York compiled a 41-31 record and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, the Knicks stumbled to a 37-45 mark last season and missed the playoffs.
They believe the disappointment of last season could be a galvanizing force.
“There’s always motivation,” Julius Randle said. “… There’s always, (you) feel like you have something to prove.”
Especially in a division with Eastern Conference champion Boston, the star-laden Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, and a young, talented and exciting Toronto squad. All those teams qualified for the playoffs last season while the Knicks watched and waited, and waited and waited some more.
“(The) offseason was a long one,” Randle said. “Eventually it gets to a point where it’s like, alright man, let’s get to it. You never want to be sitting at home for that long. … You never want to be away from the game like that for that long.”
Indeed not. So, the front office, led by team president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry, looked to improve the squad by signing point guard Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million contract, as well as agreeing to a four-year, $120 million extension with swingman R.J. Barrett. Barrett’s extension kicks in beginning in 2023-24.
But the Knicks missed out on Donovan Mitchell, traded by Utah to Cleveland in a blockbuster deal. The 6-foot-1 Mitchell is from Westchester, New York and had spent part of his summer in New York while Danny Ainge, Utah’s CEO of basketball operations, and Rose engaged in ultimately fruitless talks.
There had been speculation that the Knicks would part with one of, if not both Barrett or Randle, in a trade package to acquire Mitchell. Both professed to have ignored the rumors.
“Whatever was going to happen was going to happen,” Barrett said. “I trust the organization.”
Added Randle: “You control what you can, and what you can’t control, what’s the point of focusing on this?”
WELCOME TO NEW YORK
It is not exactly a state secret that the Knicks have had a gaping hole at point guard for more than two decades. Enter the 26-year old Brunson, who is coming off a 2021-22 season in which he averaged 16.3 points on 50.2% shooting from the field and 4.8 assists for a Dallas Mavericks squad that reached the finals of the Western Conference.
During his first group interview session with the print and television reporters who cover the team, Brunson made it clear that he views himself as a part of the team instead of a player the team is built around.
“(I’m) not a savior in any way, shape, or form,” said Brunson, whose signing the Knicks officially announced on July 12. “I just want to be able to contribute to the team, try to win some games. I like the group. (Can’t wait) to build some chemistry with these guys (and) see what we can unlock.”
LESS IS MORE
One aspect of Brunson’s arrival that could pay dividends for the Knicks is that Randle won’t have as much responsibility as the primary ballhandler. Over the course of his first three seasons with the Knicks, Randle was often tasked with bringing the ball up court as the offense ran through him. With Brunson in the fold, Randle won’t have to worry as much about getting the offense set.
“I think it’ll be easier,” Randle said, when asked if he thought not being the primary ballhandler would be a difficult adjustment. “You have to create a lot (with) the ball in your hands. It could be tough because the defense has all eyes on you all the time. So for me being able to get some things off the ball, whether it’s running for a pick-and-roll, cuts, offensive rebounds, stuff like that, I’m just thinking it’ll make the game easier for myself and I’ll be able to help my teammates more.”