Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Tatum, Fournier, Randle

Following Sunday’s loss against the Nuggets, the Knicks are now 11-12, giving them the 11th-best record in the Eastern Conference and putting them 5.5 games behind first place. After finishing last season fourth in the conference, the team’s sudden mediocrity is puzzling, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post contends.

“We have to understand we have to be more consistent and get guys healthy,” Julius Randle said, clearly not deterred by his team’s underwhelming start to the season. “But we’ll be fine. A great run could put us at the top of the East in two weeks. We just have to have a sense of urgency.” 

New York signed Kemba Walker to a two-year, $18MM deal in free agency, but head coach Tom Thibodeau recently pulled him from the rotation. Walker struggled defensively and the starting lineup had noticeable chemistry issues. The team has since started Alec Burks in his place, choosing to keep Derrick Rose in his role off the bench.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • Celtics star Jayson Tatum dismissed the notion that he’s been playing selfish basketball, Jay King of The Athletic writes. A recent ESPN story from Tim Bontemps quoted an anonymous assistant coach who questioned how bad Tatum wants to win. “I laughed,” Tatum said when asked about the topic. “I think when people get upset or you get a reaction out of somebody, it’s probably because they feel like it’s kind of true. But I just laughed because I know it’s not true. I know my teammates, my coaches, anybody I’ve ever been around, selfish is the last thing.”
  • The Knicks will need energy from Evan Fournier to help turn their season around, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. Fournier, who signed a multi-year contract to join the team in free agency, has started in all 23 games this season. He’s coming off a campaign where he averaged 17.1 points per game, splitting time between Orlando and Boston.
  • Speaking of Fournier, Peter Botte of the New York Post examines the recent disagreement between him and Randle that was caught on camera. The Knicks teammates engaged in a heated debate before halftime of the club’s loss to Chicago on Thursday. “It was a disagreement over I think the last defensive play about the double [team] and the rebounding,” Fournier said. “It was just frustration. But I think the key was it was communicating.” 
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