As odd as it sounds, Brad Stevens is somewhat of a Knicks expert.
Stevens took over as head coach of the Boston Celtics in 2013 and has played against the Knicks — their divisional rival — four times every season. From the outside looking in, he has seen the ups and down of the franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in three years.
Stevens’ outlook on New York’s potential is similar to that of any fan or pundit.
“From what I see, obviously, when they’re all healthy and firing, they’re awfully good,” he said before the Knicks’ Christmas Day matchup against the Celtics.
What wasn’t so obvious, though, is how different the Knicks’ offense look now versus years ago under then-head coach Derek Fisher. Stevens said New York’s offense is similar to what head coach Jeff Hornacek ran in his previous coaching stint in Phoenix, noting the Knicks “especially [run some of the Triangle] out of timeouts or occasionally out of an action early on.”
But according to Stevens, there is one thing lingering from the Fisher era.
“I really felt this a couple of years ago when Derek was here,” he said. “The group, towards the end of that first year he was here, was really playing hard and was really getting after guys. And I felt that continued throughout last year and has certainly continued itself throughout this year.”
The Knicks re-tooled their starting lineup in a well-documented roster overhaul that included deals for Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings. For Stevens it was simple — adding better players meant a better product.
“When you add guys like Rose and you add guys like Jennings to already complement Porzingis and Anthony, they’re gonna be better,” Stevens said. “So there’s a mindset that is really good, it seems like, from the outside looking in.”