Why this season matters for the New York Knicks
The new NBA season is here, causing of wave of excitement for basketball fans everywhere. That is especially true for New York Knicks fans. After a summer that fell far below expectations, the Knicks are entering the season with a sense of lacking. The team needs a turnaround, making this season more important than maybe the organization realizes.
In the fury of signing players in the offseason, the front office clearly had a narrative in mind. They were going to put together a team of hard-nose underdogs who would throw elbows and grind with the best of the best. This isn’t exactly a new model, as exemplified by the Los Angeles Clippers last season. The difference is, though, that the Clippers were always considered the “little brother” team. Thus, it’s not hard for those fans to embody the narrative of the underdog. The Knicks have never been treated that way. Moreover, the team traded away all of their prospects in hopes of making this year matter. Thus, this experiment needs to work out and the only way that happens if the team. However, that won’t be so easy.
Follow the Leader?
The problem with a relatively new squad is that there is no sense of on court leadership. Is that always necessary? No. However, it is helpful when the team is down to have a LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard on the court. Every championship team has someone who can really rally the squad and be a source of inspiration for the other players. At the moment, it isn’t clear who that is for this squad. Yet, there may be an answer.
Randle to the Rescue
For all intents and purposes, Julius Randle is the default main guy on the squad. He received the biggest contract over the summer, making him one of the biggest investments for this New York team. Prior to joining the team, he was on a rise with the New Orleans Pelicans. Moreover, when Kevin Durant made his comments about the Knicks “not being cool,” it was Randle who was the first to speak up. Whether he likes it or not, he may be the leader of this fresh, new roster. If he can lead the team to the playoffs, he will not only enhance his standing in the league, but make the Knicks look like a desirable destination for free agents in the future. That is what is really on the line for this squad right now and that is exactly what Randle and company have to prove.
The Knicks were embarrassed in free agency when Durant and Kyrie Irving elected to head to Brooklyn. The team brought Randle in as a back-up star and advertised him as the team’s main choice. No one believes it, and if Randle wants that to change, then he needs to earn his money. The fans in this city are hungry for victory and are tired of embracing a losing culture. If Randle can help usher in a new culture of winning, he will do what the front office has been trying to do for years: restore faith in the organization. Of course, James Dolan selling the team or stepping back entirely will be the ultimate boost for fans. Short of that, though, Randle leading this squad will give fans a reason to believe in this squad again, especially right now.
Strike while the iron is hot
The League is more balanced than ever. The era of super teams may slowly be dying. While the East is stronger than ever, there are only five teams who arguable are a guarantee for the playoffs. The Knicks can surely sneak into that conversation, especially because no one is expecting them to. Maybe winning is impossible, but that is what underdogs do. Nothing will sell that narrative more than the team actually breaking into the playoffs. If the team can pull it off, then the Knicks will finally be taken seriously again.
There is more riding on this season then the Knicks may have previously thought. Winning is always paramount, but winning now means retaking the hearts and minds of fans. Right now, the organization is being considered a “little brother” team in their own city. If the Knicks want to burn that narrative out of fans’ minds, then they need to exceed expectations. Preferably that will begin with Julius Randle at the helm. If not, the Knicks will be waiting a long time to be considered contenders once again.