The New York Knicks are off to a 2-4 start on the heels of a 47-win season in 2022-23 and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Now there are rumblings that the locker room is anything but one big happy family.
Former NBA executive Amin Elhassan told SiriusXM NBA Radio’s “Give&Go” show that the Knicks appear to be a team divided and blamed vast differences in playing styles for the rift.
“Starting in the playoffs last year, I think the Knicks are a team that’s engaged in a ‘civil war,'” Elhassan said. “That war is between the guys that know how to play and the guys that don’t. And I think on one side, you got (Jalen) Brunson. You got the Villanova guys, basically. You got, I believe, (Quentin) Grimes, I think (Isaiah) Hartenstein is in there. And Mitchell Robinson, by virtual of just. he’s very limited in what he can and can’t do on the floor, so he’s not really asked to make any decisions.
“And then on the other hand you’ve got Julius Randle, you’ve got RJ Barrett on some bad days. You’ve got Immanuel Quickley. Guys are just playing emotional, impulse basketball. And you can get through a regular season on impulse basketball. You can’t get anywhere in the playoffs on impulse basketball. You have to be able to be discerning out there.”
Randle is averaging only 13.7 points per game to go with 10.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists, but he also leads the Knicks with 2.7 turnovers a night and is shooting dismally. The two-time All-NBA selection is hitting just 30.4 percent of his two-point attempts and is at 22.5 percent from three-point range. But it’s not like Randle is jacking up 16 shots a game or anything. Oh, wait, he is doing exactly that.
Barrett was off to a solid start, averaging 21 points through the first four games on .453/.429/.810 shooting splits before he missed New York’s last two games, both losses, with a knee injury.
For his part, Brunson isn’t setting the NBA ablaze either, shooting .424/.395/.794 on 20.8 attempts per game. He leads the Knicks in scoring at 24.7 points a game but in a small sample size, his assists are down by almost two per game from a season ago.
The pressure cooker of Madison Square Garden generally doesn’t need any outside heat sources, but if things are as Elhassan suspects, coach Tom Thibodeau may have to start playing the part of third-party mediator in his own locker room