In their last game before the All-Star break, the Knicks had one of their worst losses of the season, letting a 28-point lead slip away against a Brooklyn team that was playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons.
Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News contends that the ugly loss will only intensify the scrutiny on head coach Tom Thibodeau, who mismanaged his timeouts earlier in the week against Oklahoma City and faced criticism for keeping RJ Barrett on the court in the final moments of an out-of-reach game last Tuesday (Barrett injured his ankle with less than a minute left and the Knicks down by 15).
While Bondy says “the temperature on the coach’s seat only got hotter” on Wednesday, forward Julius Randle dismissed the idea that the players are tuning out Thibodeau’s message.
“Coach is amazing. I’m riding with Coach every day,” Randle told reporters after the game (video link via Ian Begley of SNY.tv). “He challenges us and prepares us very well every day. His message is still ringing clear in the locker room. We’ve just got to execute.”
Here’s more on the Knicks:
- There’s optimism that point guard Derrick Rose will be able to return to action for the Knicks immediately after the All-Star break next week, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Rose has been unavailable since December 16 due to an ankle injury, but Wojnarowski says it looks like the former MVP should play next Friday vs. Miami, barring any setbacks.
- Thibodeau expressed confidence on Wednesday that Barrett will return right after the All-Star break too, telling reporters that the forward was “pretty close” to being ready but that the team wanted to give him an extra week to get back to 100%, per Steve Popper of Newsday.
- The prognosis wasn’t as positive for Nerlens Noel, who has been bothered this season by knee soreness and has missed the team’s last five games. Asked if Noel may ultimately require surgery, Thibodeau didn’t rule out the possibility, as Popper relays. “Yeah, it’s ongoing, so they’re checking that,” Thibodeau said. “Hopefully it responds better as we go.”
- Thibodeau is viewing the All-Star break as a “chance to reboot” for the Knicks, according to Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. “Everything is on the table now. Everything has to be merit-based. You earn what you get,” the head coach said. “You look at everything. How are we going to manage this. If a guy is playing good, he plays. If the team is functioning well he should play. The team has to come first for everyone.”
- The Knicks’ signing of Luka Samanic to a two-way contract hasn’t worked out, as the big man’s season has been marred by a left heel injury, Marc Berman writes for The New York Post. With Samanic still sidelined, it’s unclear if the team will consider making a change to that two-way slot for the rest of the season, says Berman.