GREENBURGH, N.Y. — With players already working out in the gym, the Knicks’ leadership — team president Leon Rose, general manager Scott Perry and coach Tom Thibodeau — addressed last season’s success and the expectations for this season ahead of next week’s start of camp.
Rose, who has rarely spoken to the media since taking over in March 2020, sounded very much like Thibodeau, who serves as the daily spokesman for the team.
"Expectations for this season," Rose said. "Straightforward, we want to continue to develop our players. We want to build on what we did last year and we want to get better every day. You’ve heard it from [Thibodeau] and you’re hearing it from me — focus on the next practice, the next game, and get better. The mantra that Coach has expounded to the team and preached, and that’s what our players have lived by and that’s what we plan on continuing to do."
The Knicks enter the season with an improved roster and raised expectations after a 41-31 season that earned them the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and a playoff berth. But there also are questions.
Free-agent point guard Kemba Walker could be a perfect fit, but he has been plagued by knee problems in recent years. Mitchell Robinson remains unable to play as he rehabilitates from surgery to repair a broken foot. And as the playoff beating at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks indicated, the Knicks still have a ways to go to catch up with the best in the league.
"Our focus is on the day-to-day," Rose said. "I’m not going to make predictions or speculate. What we are about is getting better every day."
"It’s a very pragmatic approach that we want to take," Thibodeau said. "Last year really has nothing to do with this year. You start over. You’re at a zero base and the whole focus has to be how quickly can we get everyone onto the same page and then daily improvement. Then hopefully we’re playing our best in the second half of the year.
"Last year’s team had a great work ethic, a great togetherness, they played smart and we got better as the season went along. The foundation is in place and just build off of that. Come in every day and put everything you have into what we’re doing."
Rose said Robinson’s foot and contract are both "a work in progress." While the Knicks made do without him for much of last season — he was sidelined for all but 31 games with a broken hand and then the foot injury — he is a key piece in their defense, even with the return of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson.
"I thought last year was really starting to take off when he got hurt," Thibodeau said. "And then obviously, he had the setback. This summer he’s put in a lot of time. He hasn’t been able to play. He’s put a lot of time into conditioning. S
trength and conditioning and whatever he’s allowed to do — being in the pool, weight training, form shooting, watching a lot of film.
"So he’s a big part of what we’re going to do and we’re following what our medical people are saying. There’s a plan in place. And we’re not going to rush, we’re going to take it step by step . . . We like where Mitch is and the way he’s grown professionally. We’re excited about the season, we’ll see how it unfolds but we’re not going to rush, we’re going step by step."
Perry said the Knicks are in line with the strict vaccine mandates in New York City. They managed the COVID-19 crisis as well as any team last season, never having to shut down practice and losing only two players — Derrick Rose and Alec Burks — for positive tests.
"I’m proud to say that our organization — players, coaches and staff — 100% vaccinated," Perry said. "And I think it’s a credit to our players in particular that they took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done."