Knicks fans got to see Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo play at the Garden on Wednesday night and will get to see Dallas’ Luka Doncic on Saturday.
It’s always a treat to see the best players in the world. Sadly, it’s also a reminder to Knicks fans that they still don’t have a true superstar and instead are mostly relying on the very good trio of Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett to bring them to the promised land.
Coach Tom Thibodeau — who two years ago said adding a superstar is “critical” in the NBA — is forging ahead with a team that was 10-11 going into Wednesday and a front office that has yet to land a true superstar for him to coach.
“The thing is, I like the young guys that we do have,” Thibodeau said. “I’m looking at what Jalen has done in the fourth quarter — he’s one of the top players in the fourth quarter. I think Julius has had big moments for us. RJ’s had big moments. So you look at the players that you have and you want them to continue to improve. Hopefully we can get there.”
Antetokounmpo, 27, was the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Knicks, picking 24th, selected Tim Hardaway Jr.
Antetokounmpo came into Wednesday averaging 30.9 points, which would be a career high. In his rookie season, he averaged 6.8 points. Antetokounmpo was the NBA MVP in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, the Bucks won the NBA title.
“How you get [a superstar] — there's obviously a lot of different pathways to getting them,” Thibodeau said. “Where Giannis is today was not where Giannis was as a rookie. So he's made himself into that. They've done a great job developing him and putting the right players around him as well. So whatever opportunities you do get, obviously you look at your own team first and try to develop the players that you have. You look at free agency, you look at trade possibilities, but you're always looking at trying to add whatever you think your team needs to improve and you look at how you match up with the teams in your conference. So it's never-ending and you're always working at it, knowing that you have to do it every day.”
Doncic, who Dallas drafted third overall in 2018, was leading the NBA in scoring at 33.5 points per game going into Wednesday. Antetokounmpo was fourth.
Brunson was tops on the Knicks at 21.5 points, which was 26th in the league. Randle was averaging 21.3 points and Barrett was at 18.4.
“I think scoring in general is up,” Thibodeau said. “But [Antetokounmpo and Doncic] are that good. I have great respect for Giannis just because of his approach to the game, where he is today from where he was when he first came into the league and how driven he is. He’s very, very competitive, and it's not only what he does for himself, but more important what he does for the team. He impacts winning in a big-time way. Two-way player. He’s a one-man break. He’s unselfish. You double-team he’s going to hit the open man and he scores a lot of different ways. You put pressure, he gets you into penalty early. Can post. He plays fast. Can shoot. And he’s so long. Covers a lot of ground. But his unselfishness, I think, is probably the biggest thing to go along with all his talent. If you over commit to him, he’s going to hit the open man every time.”