Allow me to escort you through this magical dance New York Knicks fans do at the conclusion of every season when the team fires their head coach. A dance of confusion and ecstasy as we convince ourselves that this one individual can bring us to the promise land of 45 wins.
What We Know:
Tom Thibodeau is a coach that gets the most out of his teams defensively. The hallmark of the Chicago Bulls teams he helmed had always been defense. He now heads to a Knicks roster that has three players of any actual professional value, (RJ Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, and Mitchell Robinson) that has two defensive standouts. Robinson at his peak, is as good, if not better, that Thibs’ old center and New York Knicks Ski Mask Hall of Famer, Joakim Noah. Frank Ntilikina is already a plus defender who used his limited minutes last year to lock some of the league’s biggest stars down in crunch time.
Tom Thibodeau plays his guys a lot of minutes. A lot. Now, I spoke about this with Scors on the podcast, did the Bulls under Thibs just have bad injury luck or did he ruin their knees? Rose famously blew out his knee so many times he became a Knick. Joakim Noah was so washed that the only person he could convince to give him money was a disinterest Phil Jackson. A contract so bad, that the Knicks had to stretch it over several years just to get out from under it. Or, is he just the fall guy for famous injuries/washedness? The same way Dusty Baker took the dive on the Mark Prior ad Kerry Wood injuries with the Chicago Cubs? Either way, the biggest concern from Knicks Twitter has been the lack of minutes for FIBA Frank and Mitchell Robinson. We need to know what the kids can do, and there’s no coach like Thibs to ensure we know what we have in the players we believe have value.
Tom Thibodeau wins games. I just finished watching The Last Dance for the second time on Netflix last night, and Thibs brought the Bulls to their first 50 win season since Michael Jordan got pushed out by Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf. They won over 60 games twice in his tenure. If it weren’t for LeBron James being the most dominant person in the East since Genghis Khan, at least one of those Bulls teams would have made the Finals. Minnesota might be a different story, but the Minnesota issues seemed to have stemmed from Jimmy Butler dominating Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns in a way no one has experienced in a practice facility.
What We Don’t Know:
Was Thibs sold on a rebuilding project or will Leon Rose and James Dolan try to skip a true rebuild again? Vintage Dolan and a new President of Basketball Operations typically means another half-started rebuild and a roster stocked with sub-par veterans. The Knicks will have another high draft pick this year, and with Frank, Robinson, Barrett, and potential Dotson on the roster, will have a chance to see what these players have. We might even see improvement from Kevin Knox somehow! Will Thibs be forced to play veterans over the young guys?
I am unsure about the Thibs Era. I preferred Kenny Atkinson who is another Knicks guy and built the Brooklyn system before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving pushed him out after neither of them played enough games to justify their contracts. However, Thibs is an actual professional coach with some previous success. This is not a thing we can say for New York Knicks legends, Jeff Hornacek, Derek Fisher, Mike Miller, Kurt Rambis, and every other bum that has crossed their arms at the end of the bench since Mike Woodson was shown the door.
Let’s go Knicks.