With the December 1 start of training camp just a week away the reality of what the Knicks have put together is sinking in and the assessment came from the oddsmakers with multiple venues targeting the team for approximately 22 wins in a 72-game season, ranking them at the bottom of the NBA standings.
It may be nothing head coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t expect as he said in his introductory news conference that no steps would be skipped in the rebuild. And that might make the week of trades, free agency and draft picks the first stage of grief for Thibodeau.
"We opened the Knicks 400-1 to win the NBA Championship," said Johnny Avello, Head of DraftKings Sportsbook, before sounding almost apologetic for the team’s misfortunes. "Instead of opening with a certain amount of regular-season wins, DraftKings is offering a percentage of games they will win, which is 31 1/2 percent. They are playing 72 games this year so if they played the full season, that would equate to 22 1/2 games. RJ Barrett is a good nucleus and Obi Toppin will be an exciting young player. Coach Thibodeau and the Knicks management might have them going in the right direction."
Thibodeau added some help Tuesday as he brought another assistant coach to his staff, finalizing a deal with Darren Erman. Erman had worked alongside Thibodeau on Doc Rivers’ staff in Boston in 2008 when the team won the NBA title before embarking on an impressive path with one bump along the way.
Erman took a strange path to the league, starting as a corporate lawyer when he finished college. But with a desire to coach he left his law career and took a teaching job at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City where he taught science and was an assistant coach to the school’s legendary coach, Bob Hurley.
He left there when he met Brian Scalabrine at a charitable event and talked his way into working the summer basketball camp Scalabrine held, developing a friendship and following him to Boston. He worked his way onto the staff and then left Boston for the Golden State Warriors in 2011. But his time there ended when he was fired for recording conversations among the coaches and players.
But he recovered, returning to Boston to scout before getting another chance as an assistant with the New Orleans Pelicans. He was promoted to associate head coach to Alvin Gentry and had developed a reputation as a defensive coach with the same skills as Thibodeau. He left the NBA to become a head coach last season for the Celtics’ G-League affiliate, his first opportunity to run his own team, the Maine Red Claws. The team finished 28-14 and Thibodeau and the Knicks came calling, adding him to a staff that already included Andy Greer, Johnnie Bryant, Mike Woodson, Kenny Payne and Daisuke Yoshimoto.
Thibodeau has rarely been on the sideline for a team that wasn’t contending, his only seasons below .500 coming in his first year with the Minnesota Timberwolves and in the partial third season before he parted ways with the franchise. In the second season, he turned the team into a playoff team for the first time in 14 years.