Following the news of Julius Randle’s injury, there was a whirlwind of emotions that included: anxiousness, nervousness, frustration, and despair. But instead of folding and looking like a team missing its best player, the Knicks have reeled off two straight wins and it’s given the fans some assurance that things may not be all that bad.
It’s been a pretty small sample size but in the two games without Randle, Jalen Brunson has stepped up big time showing once again just how deadly he is capable of being. After averaging 17.6 shots per game, he has averaged 26 per game over the last two games and it’s come with amazing results. The young point guard is averaging 37.5 PPG on a ridiculous 55.8% field goal percentage and 53.3% three-point percentage. And he’s done so while averaging 8.5 APG as well. Obviously those numbers are not sustainable long-term, especially in the playoffs, but Brunson has certainly given Knicks fans a reason to believe and remain calm.
Another reason Knicks fans should be in good spirits, is the play of the team’s young core. Immanuel Quickley, who has been amazing for most of the season, is averaging 25PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, and 2 SPG over his last five games (three of which have been starts). Then there’s Quentin Grimes, who is playing the best basketball of his young career, averaging 20.8 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4 APG on 52.4% shooting over his last six games. We also can’t forget Obi Toppin, who just scored 21 points on 9-15 shooting in 33 minutes. There’s still room left to grow for all of them, as well as RJ Barrett who unlike the others, is struggling. And fans would certainly love seeing them do this on a more consistent basis as well as in the playoffs, but it’s hard to be down on a team when it’s young core is playing this well.
Then there are the others. Often a term reserved for less important and worse players, the Knicks have a few “others” who have been incredibly valuable. Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein being the most significant of them, they have been so big over the last few weeks. Both players have exemplified the type of unselfish, and intense basketball that Knicks fans always loved. And it’s allowed many of the aforementioned players to focus on the things they do best. Hart and Hartenstein may never win you a game single-handedly or be the best player on the court at any given time during a game but winning teams often require players like them, and it’s been blessing to have not just one, but two guys like them.
And last but not least, is the playoffs. While we’ve all known for a while now that this team was likely playoff bound, they did finally clinch a playoff birth last night and the fans should take some time to appreciate the wonderful and sometimes hectic ride it’s been this season. The playoffs may still unravel a whole new package of emotions that could potentially include disappointment and anger but for now, it’s time to let out a well-deserved but short sigh of relief.
Because this was a team many media platforms had missing the playoffs and winning just 39 or 40 games. And they saw that, didn’t do too much talking, just put their heads down, and worked nonstop in a way that a Thibodeau-lead team would. They’ve given us all some incredibly frustrating losses and disappointing performances, but the Knicks are now going to the playoffs with a rotation full of guys under 27 years old and are doing so with draft capital coming up. New York may not be the championship team that we are all desperate for, but they are a lot closer to being that than they have been over the last decade. So even with the looming anxiousness of the Randle injury and the potential frustrations of the playoffs around the corner, Knicks fans need to remember that they have plenty of things to be happy and positive about right now.