The Knicks’ goal is to continue to build on last year’s success

Knicks management sat relaxed Friday afternoon, Leon Rose made jokes about his extended silence over more than a year, Tom Thibodeau – his voice carried none of the serious tones that come with a long season of screaming at officials and his own team – smiling broadly.

There were plenty of reasons why they could enjoy the moment. Since Rose last spoke to the media – Thibodeau’s inaugural zoom press conference in July 2020 – the Knicks had surpassed any reasonable expectation by grabbing the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Thibodeau was named NBA Coach of the Year. And the summer had also gone well, filling gaps with free agent acquisitions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, while bringing all the key parts back to last year’s race.

With the league, like most other parts of the nation, locked in issues of COVID and controversy over vaccines, Knicks general manager Scott Perry proudly stated that the entire team – players, coaches, staff – were all vaccinated and first put a bow to a fine years of responsibility.

What most came out of this was that the Knicks, after two decades of dysfunction, of lawsuits and questionable decisions, were well normal.

Matching last year’s promotion through the standings can be tough with Eastern Conference improved and powerhouse teams expected in Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Philadelphia (perhaps if they solve the problem with their second most important player), Miami and even Atlanta. Damage occurs. The success of last year, as Thibodeau noted, does not continue with the team starting at zero again.

But usually, now it’s something the Knicks can strive for and maybe achieve.

If that sounds sarcastic, it’s not. That’s important, and that’s the team’s admitted goal.

“Last season was definitely a successful season,” Rose said Friday. “Most importantly for us, we created a culture and built a foundation. Coach Thibodeau and his staff did an incredible job, our players, in building that culture and that foundation … With that said, when we went into the summer, in order to build on last year, continuity and stability were two important factors in what we did. “

Rose had not spoken for more than a year, and in this 45-minute session he said a little that you had thought was worth the wait. Like his days as an agent, admittedly, he will have little to do with making headlines with his words. If you want to talk about Bruce Springsteen, you get an animated discussion. If you want to hear about the contract negotiations with Mitchell Robinson, you want to hear about Springsteen.

But if you do not say anything, you can not say anything wrong. You can not make your star player angry – hey, Phil Jackson! – and you can not come up with silly proclamations. Should fans expect to hear thoughts from the organization when a player they love is swapped? Should the plan be pronounced loudly if fans want to throw hard earned money down to fill Madison Square Garden? Of course, but there is a certain charm in boring.

With an assist from general manager Scott Perry, who was part of the former regime and continued last season and extended this summer, the Knicks have stabilized what had been a sinking franchise, far below the “ship sinks, but the sky is the limit” proclamations by Micheal Ray Richardson decades ago.

Not only did they set a record of 41-31 last year and managed to keep that group largely intact while filling gaps in the free agency and the draft, but they are, as they openly strive for, stable. They have six first-round picks in the next four drafts (along with nine second-round picks). The contracts, even for the stars, are not cumbersome. If they find the desired place for a disgruntled star somewhere else, their contracts are movable and the closet if they are filled with assets.

“I will not comment on what has been going on before,” Rose said of the office space groups that preceded his arrival. “But with our group here and (William Wesley) and Brock (Aller) and Frank (Zanin) and the rest of our group, we take it one day at a time.

“We’re going to be aggressive as far as we know what’s going on and as far as we are on top of things and looking at opportunities. But at the same time we want to be careful and disciplined in decisions that we make that will take positive and negative, short-term, long-term, all these factors in a decision-making process. “

Continuity has been a rare commodity in New York, on the roster, in the coach’s normally warm seat, in plans that blow up with a sudden chase for a star. But the Knicks management stressed that a priority was to bring back a lot of last year’s team and find pieces that fit into the culture created by Thibodeau.

“We wanted to bring enough of the guys back from last year who started setting a bar for us to get better,” Perry said. “And when you look around the league, teams that improve tend to have a lot of the same guys left. You need to have enough time to develop a core group of guys, so that reflected what we did this summer. . “

“We always think of our own guys first, the development of our own players,” Thibodeau said. “So the internal growth, like at the beginning of last year, I mentioned about Julius (Randle), at the end of the year now we have an All-Star. So hopefully we can develop another, or another guy can make that leap and then you have the draft and we are excited about the guys we got in the draft then you have free agency and then you have the trading opportunities.

“All four areas, Leon and his staff, Scott, Wes, they’ve been amazing. Every day we think about improvement, and we start with internal improvement, and then we go step by step to try to improve the team, and we think. “We have a lot to offer. Leon mentioned the arena, our fans, we have a great owner, we have the best city in the world, we think we are in a good position.”

It would have been hard to predict the last year, but now the Knicks have a culture, they have continuity, and they have expectations. It can be hard to repeat the success of last season with much need to go right again under unforeseen circumstances. But for once, the Knicks have at least a sense of calm, and that’s something.