The Knicks’ roller-coaster of a season reached 20 games Sunday night, and the quarter mark presents a chance to take stock.
The lows like the panic that accompanied the team on a five-game western swing last week, and the highs coming with three wins on that trip followed by a pair of close losses back home, provided the sort of swings of mood and results that led to this point.
And where are the Knicks after those ups and downs? Well, right where most expected them to be, a shade below .500 at 9-11, sitting just outside of the playoff and play-in spots in the Eastern Conference.
They will face the Pistons (5-17), the team with the NBA’s worst record, Tuesday night in Detroit before hosting the Bucks in the second night of a back-to-back set.
When coach Tom Thibodeau was presented Bill Parcells’ contention that “you are what your record says you are,” he couldn’t disagree.
“I mean, it’s the truth,” Thibodeau said Sunday. “It’s what you are. You look at where you are and you know that things can change in this league very quickly and you have to keep working at it. So things can be rough and they can change and all of a sudden they’re great.
“And then conversely, the opposite could hold true as well. Could be going along smoothly and all of a sudden you have a hiccup and then you struggle. So I think the thing is to be consistent in your approach, have a routine, trust your process, keep working at it and strive for improvement each day. All the little things do matter. So you want to stack good plays on top of each other, good days on top of each other. Just get ready for each game.”
The reality is that the remaining 62 games are unlikely to provide a drastic change in fortune for the Knicks. The front office has assembled a team that is built more as a compilation of assets to try to maximize in a trade than a team built to win.
As evidenced by the offseason pursuit of Donovan Mitchell, there are no untouchables on the roster other than Jalen Brunson — at least as long as this front office remains in place. NBA sources have confirmed that Immanuel Quickley, who suffered a right knee injury Sunday, has been discussed in trades. The Knicks also are hoping to find a taker for Evan Fournier and are open to talks about any player other than Brunson on the roster.
“We’ve shown we have flashes of greatness in us,” Brunson said. “And we’ve shown that we’re just one play away. We’ve just got to continue to get better. We have a lot of room to continue to get better, a lot of room to catch our stride. We’ve just got to keep fighting, sticking together.”
“At the quarter point, so a lot of work to do,” Thibodeau said. “Just keep concentrating on getting better, improving, get ready for the next game. They come one at a time, so don’t look backward, don’t look forward. Just look at what’s in front of us.”