Knicks: One playoff possession summarizes state of franchise

Julius Randle, Reggie Bullock, Knicks. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Julius Randle, Reggie Bullock, Knicks. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks have played somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,650 minutes (probably a bit more when you factor in some overtimes) of basketball so far this year.

And yet, one 22.9 second possession perfectly encapsulates the season–nay, the entire state of the franchise–perfectly.

Knicks: One posession represents their current playoff situation

RJ Barrett had just hit a corner three coming off a Julius Randle assist to make the score 63-54 in favor of the Hawks with 8:45 left in the third quarter.

Collins inbounded the basketball to Trae Young who pushed the Hawks across the timeline. After a quick screen by Clint Capela on Reggie Bullock on the right slot, Young drove toward the paint. Taj Gibson cut him off (protecting the rim is paramount to Tom Thibodeau) and forced Young to pick up the ball. Bullock recovered quickly.

Trae Young eyed John Collins on the weakside slot but threw a no-look pass to De’Andre Hunter in the weakside corner with 16 seconds left on the shot clock.

Hunter tried to back down and dribble and spin by and outmuscle his way to the basket past Barrett, but RJ defended him beautifully with some brief help by Derrick Rose at the elbow that forced Hunter to pick up his dribble. Hunter threw it to Collins up top with 4.9 seconds left on the shot clock.

Collins immediately pushed his way toward the nail, but Julius Randle prevented him from getting far. Randle was all over him. On him tighter than an old tank top on a beer belly.

Collins went into his shooting motion with 2.7 seconds left on the shot clock. It was a prayer. Randle gave him no air space. The shot bounced in hard off the back rim, putting the Hawks back up by double digits.

Collins did that confident backpedal players do when they hit a shot they know was more luck than skill. “Yup. That’s exactly how we drew it up,” I’m sure Collins thought to himself.

It got worse from there for the Knicks, but this was the possession that stuck with me because it demonstrated exactly where this team is as a franchise.

The Knicks play hard on defense as their coach demands. There’s a team effort on both sides of the ball.

They’re close. They did almost everything right. They just ran out of luck.

I won’t stand for Knicks fans who, after two admittedly bad games on the road in the playoffs, are ready to throw out this whole season. Ready to throw out Thibs. Ready to trade Randle. Ready to start rebuilding–again.

This has been one of the most fun seasons I can remember since I moved to New York City in 2008 and adopted the Knicks as my team. That does not change if they end up losing this first-round series to the Hawks.

Ahead of schedule is ahead of schedule, and this year’s Knicks squad is certainly that. Knicks fans get livid when national media moves the goalposts of what marks success this year. After game four, it’s actually Knicks fans who have changed the marker of success.

This team has been a success this year. They have become a fundamentally sound, playoff basketball team. None of that changes regardless of what happens from here on out.

Think of the Knicks, think of that possession, like one of those home improvement shows. This franchise (I use that word because I’m really talking top-down here) has good bones. This isn’t a teardown job regardless of what frustrated fans tell you on Twitter.

They’re close. They’ve done almost everything right. The luck will come.

Next. Solutions for the Knicks center problem(s). dark