Lack of effort, defensive drop-off have done Knicks in early this season

·3 min read
Julius Randle defended closely by the Bulls
Julius Randle defended closely by the Bulls

The Knicks are taking the day off on Sunday. They’ll return to practice on Monday to prepare for a three-game road trip.

They also may take some time to self-reflect.

“We gotta look ourselves in the mirror and decide what we want the season to be,” Julius Randle said after the Knicks were crushed by Denver at home on Saturday.

“I know what I want it to be. I know what the guys want it to be. But we have to commit to it, and that’s just really what it is.” Saturday’s loss leaves the Knicks at 11-12 — below .500 for the first time this season. It also leaves the Knicks searching for consistency on both ends of the floor.

With offseason acquisitions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, New York believed that it had
upgraded the offense enough to offset any drop-off on defense. So far, that hasn’t been the case.

After Saturday’s loss, the Knicks are 15th in offensive rating and 24th in defensive rating. The schedule has been difficult, but the team has also played with subpar effort on several
nights.

Effort and energy was one of New York’s best attributes last season, when the club won 41 games and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference.

So the idea that effort has been an issue so often for this team early in the season is troubling.

“How we built this team and this culture is just fighting defensively, the togetherness, just the effort, the hustle plays. I feel like that’s what the city of New York loves,” Randle said. “That’s what the fans love — when they know we’re out there giving it our all. And I think sometimes, we’re too lax. We might think the little details don’t matter sometimes or whatever it is, but we just gotta understand to get out of this, we gotta do it together. I have to be better. Everybody has to be better. And I’ll take responsibility from the team. I’ll take responsibility for myself. That doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, I just wanna win. I think everybody — well, I know everybody in that locker room wants to win, too.”

The desire is there. But the Knicks have to diagnose the problem and figure out how to fix it quickly.

Is it on Tom Thibodeau to make lineup/rotation changes? From a bottom-line perspective, the Walker demotion hasn’t produced the desired results. New York is 0-3 since removing
him from the starting lineup.

Is it on Randle and the players to fix the effort issues that they’ve cited several times this season? Of course. But that explanation sometimes seems like a catch-all that glosses over the technical issues hurting the Knicks.

Is it on Leon Rose and his group to execute a trade to upgrade the roster? Did they miscalculate this offseason when they acquired Walker and Fournier?

These are all fair questions for a Knicks team that has underperformed so far. But the most pressing question at the moment is: who is going to take action to clean up this
mess?

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