It’s training camp time, which is usually when you’ll hear various sweet-sounding platitudes from coaches and players: “I’m in the best shape of my life,” for example. And the Knicks are no exception. Perhaps head coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t exactly winning fans over with his early proclamations, but we’re hearing good things from the players. Derrick Rose lost more than 20 pounds! And most interesting of all, the oft-maligned Julius Randle says the Knicks are dedicated to playing faster this season!
Julius Randle says major focus of training camp has been to play faster. #knicks— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) October 1, 2022
That’s good! The Knicks ranked a putrid 29th out of 30 teams last season in pace, averaging 95.9 possessions per game. They were dead last in the league the season before, averaging that exact same 95.9 possessions per game. What is it with Thibs teams and averaging 95.9 possessions per game?
Sadly, this isn’t the first time Randle has talked about playing a faster, more exciting brand of basketball. He was making similar pronunciations in camp last year:
Among the things Julius Randle worked on in offseason: “Playing faster” & “making quicker decisions,” he says. Asked about ATL series, Randle says he felt that he could’ve “made the game way more simple.” Also says it’s great that all NYK players are vaccinated, will be available— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) September 27, 2021
He also brought it up when the Knicks were sliding into obscurity last February:
“We’ve been trying to adjust all year, me specifically, how teams are guarding me, how teams are guarding RJ. The bigger thing is just making the game easier, get out, get some points in transition, and just play faster“: Julius Randle on the Knicks’ pace of play pic.twitter.com/SwepGgasqT— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) February 6, 2022
To his credit, Randle actually did play faster and more decisively in February...for a few games, at least. Soon, though, it was back to the same old slog. It was doubly frustrating, because the Knicks actually do have a power forward on the roster who excels play up-tempo. They just rarely use him for various reasons. Randle and Thibs both clearly prefer to slow things down. It worked two seasons ago, sort of — the 2020-21 team ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency — and it failed miserably last season. It’s cool to say you’re going to play faster, but it kind of flies in the face of everything we’ve witnessed over both of their careers.
Anyway, it’s a new season, which means new opportunities to change. I’m a Randle (and a Thibs) skeptic, but we really have no choice but to wait and see. Hopefully the board doesn’t lie.
A look at the 8 “Offensive Musts” for the Knicks this season:— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) September 29, 2022
3. Play Off the Pass
4. Move Without the Ball
5. Attack the Rim
6. Offensive Execution
7. Value Shot
8. Offensive Rebound
What would you change, remove or add?! pic.twitter.com/fw9Pn6kIZv