Marc Berman of The New York Post tried to stoke the fires of takesmanship Tuesday when he published an article on the challenges head coach Tom Thibodeau faces replicating last season’s defense. While it’s almost certainly true that the Knicks’ defense, that is likely due to some regression in last season’s shockingly low opponent field goal percentage. Berman, however, would like you believe the reason is the departure of Reggie Bullock and (LOL) Elfrid Payton.
Fortunately, the article does contain a useful nugget about the inner workings of the Knicks’ front office, particularly in their relationship with Thibs. Per Berman:
According to an NBA source, Thibodeau lobbied hard to bring back the team’s defensive heart-and-soul in starting shooting guard Reggie Bullock but team brass went another direction. The coach was disappointed.
It’s not difficult to imagine Thibs as lobbying the front office to keep Bullock. While he was very much not the heart and soul of the Knicks defense, he was a very solid player and a key part of the Knicks’ newly awesome culture. But the front office said no.
This story delights me on multiple levels. First, the front office was absolutely correct in looking to upgrade the team’s offense in the backcourt, even if it meant letting Bullock walk. Evan Fournier isn’t the defender Bullock is — though the drop-off isn’t nearly as large as some would lead you to believe — but he’s a versatile presence on offense who can do many things Bullock simply cannot. The team was likely to regress a bit on defense regardless, so any real improvement needed to come on the offensive end, where Julius Randle clearly needed help. The front office clearly recognized this, and addressed it. That’s what good front offices do!
Also, stories like this should put an end to any ideas that Thibodeau has an outsized role in the Knicks’ front office. It’s easy to point at the Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose signings and say “Oh, they’re just bringing in Thibs guys.” Well, Reggie Bullock was very much a Thibs guy. Even Elfrid Payton was (for some reason) a Thibs guy — why else would Thibs start his so much? Both are now gone. Most of the mainstream media wants you to believe this is could really hurt the Knicks in the long run, at least defensively. I doubt it.