new york knicks
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Other than hiring Tom Thibodeau as their new head coach, the Knicks didn’t make any major splashes in the free-agent market last offseason, largely running it back with the same core of players.
While their improved defensive effort has been the most noticeable change under Thibodeau, the Knicks have also gotten a boost from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett making strides on the other end of the floor and settling into their roles offensively. Rather than a strategic tweak in the way they play off each other, point guard Elfrid Payton attributed the improvement to something more simple.
“Stuff takes time,” Payton said Wednesday after the Knicks’ 107-103 win over the Bulls in Chicago. “Everybody, we live in a world, they want stuff so instant. It takes time to learn people, it takes time for things to work. So I think playing a whole year together, learning each other, learning each other’s strength, working on their games, I think you’re seeing the fruits of their labor. Sometimes you’ve got to take a few L’s.”
Elfrid Payton drives on Zach Levine during the Knicks’ 107-103 win over the Bulls.Getty Images
The Knicks certainly took their losses last year — 45 of them compared to 21 wins before COVID-19 cut their season short — but improved to 10-13 on Wednesday night.
While Randle has put himself squarely in the All-Star conversation, Barrett has looked more comfortable in the offense with his shot continuing to improve. In his past 12 games, Barrett is shooting 50.3 percent from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 19.4 points. In the first 11 games of the season, he shot 36.5 percent from the floor and 18 percent from deep.
It has often been Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks or Austin Rivers joining Randle and Barrett as a third offensive threat, but on Wednesday, it was Payton piling up 20 points to spark the win.
“Everyone’s role is different,” Thibodeau said. “Some guys play more than others. Some guys are just there to be ready when the opportunity comes. And it will come. That’s sort of the nature of this league. When that opportunity comes, be ready to go in and help the team.
“So everyone has to sacrifice something for the greater good of the team. So it might be shots, it might be minutes, it might be starting, it might be coming off the bench. Might not be in the rotation initially. But you need everyone over the course of the season. And everyone’s role is important for the success of the team.”