Right around this time last year, the Knicks were coming off of a very disappointing and tumultuous season that saw them take a huge step back and miss out on the playoffs. Julius Randle looked like a shell of himself, the young core of RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and Quentin Grimes all had very up and down seasons, and the excitement and expectations around the team were middling. Fast forward to this year and it’s a completely different story. New York is now coming off of its first playoff appearance in a decade, Jalen Brunson has catapulted himself into stardom, Randle is coming off of another All-Star season, and the expectations of this team are as high as they have ever been over the last two decades. And the league believes the same as the Knicks will be getting 25 nationally televised games. It’s still less than the 29 nationally televised games they got in the 2021-22 season, but it’s a hell of a lot more than the 16 they had last season.
The Knicks have 25 Nationally Televised Games this season:— KnicksMuse (@KnicksMuse) August 17, 2023
10/25 vs Celtics (ESPN)
10/28 @ Pelicans (NBA TV)
10/31 @ Cavs (TNT)
11/2 @ Milwaukee (ESPN)
11/8 vs Spurs (ESPN)
11/13 @ Celtics (NBA TV)
11/24 vs Miami (ESPN)
12/15 @ Suns (ESPN)
12/23 vs Bucks (NBA TV)
12/25 vs Bucks… pic.twitter.com/30AvxoWUWO
The Knicks will play 13 back-to-backs this season. The good news is that the league average is 14. The bad news though, is that all but one of those 13 back-to-backs happen to include travel. For reference, the league average this season for back-to-backs that include travel, is just nine per team. And sure, distance for travel is relevant when talking about back-to-backs but in all but two of those games, the Knicks will be at a disadvantage in terms of travel distance. This isn’t the end of the world, but the Knicks have a coach that likes to use his starters heavily and cut his rotation to just nine players last year. And because of that, we should all keep an eye this on as the season progresses to see if it impacts their play or Thibodeau’s rotation choices.
Knicks play 12 back-to-backs that include travel in 2023-24. The average number of back-to-backs with travel this season is nine per team. NBA says that the average number of those back-to-backs in ‘23-‘24 is a league-low. NBA has made an effort to minimize back to backs recently— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) August 17, 2023
Brutal first half schedule
The Knicks and more importantly, their fans, must do their best to stay calm and no overreact over the first few months of the season because the team’s schedule to start off the campaign is brutal to say the least. 11 of the Knicks’ first 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season and New York will have eight of its 12 back-to-backs within its first 36 games including two in the first week of the season. Making things even tougher for the Knicks, will be the fact that the first few months of the season is pretty road-heavy with 15 of its first 25 games and 22 of its first 39 games (excluding the In-Season Tournament knockout games) being played on the road. The Knicks did fare well in both road games (24-17) and on back-to-backs (7-5) last season, but this is still a pretty deadly combination that we’ll need to keep in our mind if the team struggled or underperforms to start the season.
15 of the Knicks’ First 25 Games this season are on the road. pic.twitter.com/eLF7VMSr7Z— KnicksMuse (@KnicksMuse) August 17, 2023
Must take advantage of midseason schedule
Making up for the team’s difficult start, is the fact that they’ll play 18 of their 28 games at The Garden in January and February. If the Knicks do indeed get off to a less-than-ideal start, this would be the perfect time to make it up. It’ll be the start of the new calendar year, they’ll be playing at home very often, and they’ll even have the All-Star break in the middle of February to get them some additional rest. And if New York can actually manage the early schedule well and come out in decent shape, this stretch of games could help propel them into a top four seed.
Knicks games by month:— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) August 17, 2023
—October: 4 (1 Home/ 3 Away)
—November: 14 (8H/6A)
—December: 12 (3H/9A)
—January: 16 (10H/6A)
—February: 12 (8H/4A)
—March: 14 (7H/7A)
—April: 8 (3H/5A)
Finishing out the season in Chicago?
The Knicks and the Bulls somehow seem to be linked in one way or another. It used to be Michael Jordan against the Knicks. And then it was those very good Bulls teams in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s coming into New York to put on a show. Then the Knicks got Derrick Rose and then Tom Thibodeau, two guys who enjoyed a lot of success in Chicago. And we just went through the whole potential Zach LaVine trade scenario. Well, it may behoove fans to keep the Bulls in their rearview mirror as the Knicks finish out the season by playing three of their final six games against Chicago. Depending on where the Knicks and Bulls are at in the standings, those game could be played in very different ways. Assuming that the Knicks will be fighting for playoff seeding, playing against a Bulls team that are completely out of the playoffs could be of great benefit. But conversely, if Chicago is also in the midst of a seeding battle, those games could end up being very important in the eastern conference landscape. It’s still very far out but keep an eye on Chicago as the season progresses.