Knicks fans, it isn’t uncommon for people to want to focus on their mental health heading into their new year, and for good reason. The daily grind of life can often wear us down, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. And, those struggles can sometimes feel even worse when you are a die-hard fan of any sports team- good or bad. The losses lead to countless nights of frustration and every bad decision the coach and front office make can leave you scratching your head to no end. But this year, I implore Knicks fans to focus on gratitude and gratefulness. There will still be things to get mad and annoyed at. Because Tom Thibodeau will continue to make decisions that you won’t agree with, Julius Randle will still fail to get back in transition after an awful turnover, Jalen Brunson isn’t growing any time soon, Josh Hart will keep turning down wide-open threes, Quentin Grimes likely won’t turn into the player that many thought he would this season. But that’s okay.
Here are some resolutions for the Knicks New Year.
Tom Thibodeau: Despite his flaws, Thibs is a very good coach with a very high floor. Randle is a candidate to make his third All-Star game and third All-NBA team and playing better than he ever has. Brunson is on his way to what will likely be his first All-Star appearance. Hart will never be a great shooter but he does so many other things to help this team win. Grimes started the year slow but should look more like himself with more playing time and offensive responsibilities with Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett gone. All in all, I get that fan is short for fanatic and that it can be very tempting to overreact to each defeat and questionable decision because that’s what fans do. But remember to keep the big picture in mind. This is a very very good team with two likely All-Stars, a new wing that is known as one of the best defenders in the league and complements said All-Stars well, and a plethora of role pieces that play hard and are fun and easy to root for. We all know just how bad being a Knicks fan can be, and we are extremely far from that, so let’s all try to show a bit more gratitude towards this team this year.
Front office: The move for OG Anunoby had its pros and cons as most trades do and because of that, there was a large divide between the fans on whether the trade was good or bad. That being said, what cannot be debated, is what the Knicks front office still has left in terms of assets. The treasure chest of first-round picks, which remains the most sought-after commodity in the NBA today, makes the Knicks buyers and firmly keeps them as one of the few favorites to land a star. Now rostering the aforementioned Anunoby, it may be incredibly tempting for the front office to make another move and really make a splash this season but the Knicks must exercise patience. It may not be a difficult ask because this front office, for the most, has been pretty patient. But all of the prior restraint and fortitude can be undone with one move. Stay smart, stay patient, stay the course.
Julius Randle: By far the most polarizing player now that Barrett is gone, Randle has had himself an incredibly great season. Despite getting off to a historically horrendous start to the season, Randle has re-inserted himself into the discussion for best forward in the league. And a lot of that is because of the way he has re-invented himself and his game. No longer the high-volume three-point shooter he was last season, Randle has instead been more aggressive and more focused than ever on attacking the paint and using his pure strength and size. And instead of driving too far into the lane and forcing up shots like he did in the past, he has learned a new set of tricks that include pulling up or going up outside of the restricted area, pump faking, and pivoting. Overall, it seems like he has gotten better at utilizing his strength and attacking like we’ve always wanted him to do, and then just making better decisions off of that, whether that’s passing, shooting, or drawing fouls. And that, in sports terms at least, is often referred to the game slowing down, meaning he’s learned to simplify things and stop trying to do multiple things at once. So for his resolution, I really just want him to keep doing what he’s already started doing. No multitasking, continue to declutter, and keep things simple.
Jalen Brunson: Invest. Invest not financially, but invest in your home here, because you are here for good (fingers crossed). Brunson surprised everyone, including Knicks fans, last season with just how good he was, but this season, he’s managed to surpass everything he did last season. The Knicks’ point guard has built off of a very explosive playoff run and looks poised to make his first All-Star appearance. And the hope is, he’ll make many more in the future, and do so while wearing a Knicks jersey. Obviously a lot can still happen but right now, most, if not all, Knicks fans would love for him to retire a Knick. So, why not start putting down your roots here?
Mitchell Robinson: Health, health, health, with a side of a bit more health. Robinson, coming off of an amazing playoff run that gave him more national recognition than he had ever gotten, got off to the best start of his career this season. He was grabbing offensive rebounds at a higher rate than some teams by himself, and was impacting the game in a major way on both ends of the floor night in and night out. And when his injury was first reported, it felt bad on two levels. We knew how hard he had worked and just how much he sacrifices for this team. But we also knew just how important he was to this team. Now, Isaiah Hartenstein has filled in admirably, but the best version of this team is still one with a healthy Robinson. For both his sake and the team’s sake, I’m just praying that something can be done to miraculously get him back this season or at least keep him healthy when he returns next season.
Josh Hart: Hart almost instantaneously became one of the funniest players on the team when the Knicks acquired him last season, and while Robinson will always get my vote so long as he is on the team, the Villanova guard is right up there thanks to his funny in-game faces, back-and-forth with Brunson, and comedic interviews. I will say though, Hart has also become synonymous with interesting, if not flat-out weird, social media posts. A lot of them are funny but there are probably a few out there we could all do without. So for this New Year, Hart should look to maybe minimize screen time, and maybe think a second or two before he posts about anything breast milk related.
Quentin Grimes: Reading, much like focusing on health, is a very common New Year’s resolution. And reading a book or two on confidence might do wonders for the Knicks’ third-year man. It’s clear what kind of talent Grimes possesses. We’ve witnessed him be an incredible defender, who is capable of knocking down outside shots at a high clip while attacking closeouts with ease and even playmaking at a higher-than-expected level. But this season, he’s often looked like a shell of himself on the offensive end. The shot still looks good, but the results just aren’t there. And he isn’t looking to drive or finish much in transition either. It’s unfathomable that all that talent he showcased last season is gone. Maybe if he can get out of his own head and regain that confidence, he can be the Grimes that we all expected him to be.
Taj Gibson: Gibson is in some amazing shape for someone who is 38 years old- NBA player or not. But when he plays 15+ minutes in any given game, especially against faster and more athletic teams, the age does tend to show a bit. Now, the Knicks did acquire Precious Achiuwa in the Anunoby deal, and the prevailing belief is that he’ll slot in and soak up the backup center minutes. But where there’s a Thibs, there’s a Taj. I believe that one way or another, through injuries, foul troubles, or just bad play, Gibson will stumble his way into minutes. So I hope Gibson can do some yoga, stretching, and whatever else he needs to do to stay loose and healthy for when Thibodeau inevitably plays him more minutes than he should again.