GREENBURGH, NY – With players already training in the gym, the Knicks’ management – team president Leon Rose, general manager Scott Perry and coach Tom Thibodeau – addressed last season’s success and expectations for this season ahead of next week’s camp start.
Rose, who has rarely spoken to the media since the March 2020 takeover, sounded a lot like Thibodeau, who serves as the team’s daily spokesman.
“Expectations for this season,” Rose said. “Immediately we will continue to develop our players. We will build on what we did last year and we will get better every day. You have heard it from [Thibodeau] and you hear it from me – focus on the next exercise, the next game, and get better. The mantra that the coach has explained to the team and preached, and that’s what our players have lived by, and that’s what we plan to continue to do. ”
The Knicks enter the season with an improved roster and elevated expectations after a 41-31 season that gave them No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and a playoff berth. But there are also questions.
Free-agent point guard Kemba Walker could fit perfectly, but he has been plagued by knee problems in recent years. Mitchell Robinson is still unable to play as he is rehabilitating from surgery to repair a broken foot. And as the Atlanta Hawks playoffs indicated, the Knicks still have a way to catch up with the best in the league.
“Our focus is on the daily,” Rose said. “I do not want to make predictions or speculate. What we are about is getting better every day.”
“It’s a very pragmatic approach that we want to follow,” Thibodeau said. “Last year really has nothing to do with this year. You start over. You are on a zero base and the whole focus should be on how quickly we can get everyone on the same page and then daily improvement. So hopefully we are playing our best in the second half.
“Last year’s team had a good work ethic, a good team spirit, they played well and we got better as the season went on. The foundation is in place and just building out of it. Come in every day and put everything you have in what we do. ”
Rose said Robinson’s foot and contract are both “an ongoing work”. While the Knicks managed without him for much of last season – he was sidelined in all but 31 games with a broken hand and then a foot injury – he is an important piece in their defense, even with the return of Nerlen’s Noels and Taj Gibson.
“I thought last year really started to pick up speed when he got injured,” Thibodeau said. “And then of course he had the setback. This summer he has spent a lot of time. He has not been able to play. He has spent a lot of time conditioning. S
strength and conditioning and what he now has to do – be in the pool, strength training, form shooting, watch a lot of movies.
“So he’s a big part of what we have to do, and we follow what our doctors say. There’s a plan in place. And we’re not going to hurry, we’m taking it step by step … “I like where Mitch is and the way he has grown professionally. We are excited about the season, we will see how it unfolds, but we will not rush, we are going step by step.”
Perry said the Knicks are in line with the strict vaccination mandates in New York City. They managed the COVID-19 crisis as well as any team last season, without having to close the practice and only losing two players — Derrick Rose and Alec Burks — for positive tests.
“I’m proud to say that our organization – players, coaches and staff – is 100% vaccinated,” Perry said. “And I think it’s an honor for our players in particular that they took this thing very seriously and took responsibility for getting it done.”