The Knicks believe they are getting better this season, but others are not so sure

GREENBURGH, NY – The Knicks spent the summer cutting up their team roster and filling in the obvious gaps from last season’s disappointing playoffs. And they’ve spent the first week of camp with only good news, while headlines blow from other Eastern Conference teams worried about potential season-disrupting issues.

The Nets are waiting for the cryptic announcements from Kyrie Irving to tell them whether he will play home games or matches this season. The 76ers are in limbo, their second-best player holding out of training camp and demanding trade, while unable to find an offer that would bring almost a return return to keep them near the top of the conference.

So the harmony and results from last season seem to point to a step forward. But when Las Vegas oddsmakers put the opening lines on over / under for wins this season, they put the Knicks at 41 1/2.

The Knicks, where Elfrid Payton started at point guard and Derrick Rose only arrived months after last season, won 41 games in just 72 seasons of season, 41-31 marks and a .569 winning percentage. Now is Vegas making them drop to .500 and expect 41 wins in an 82-game season with a city full of potential overly optimistic bettors?

“I let you decide,” Julius Randle said earlier this week. “For me, for our team, it’s just about getting better every day, continuing to evolve as individuals, evolving as a team. I think the biggest last year was that we came in, we did the right thing every day. Because we created the good habits, we had a plan for what we did every night. It does not change. We just want to stick to it. “

“Your first meeting is critical because you have to put all this out, and it’s a goal setting meeting,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after Saturday’s practice. “We need to understand what our plan is and how we’re going to tackle it. I think that’s important. I know it’s part of your job. It’s part of our league.” People are excited. But for us, it really does not matter, you know? You have to play the games. And then we have to understand what goes into winning and the work part of it, and you start with a zero base.

“I’ve always wanted something like that – they do not know. If we went for what they said last year, we would never have done what we did. And whether it’s praise or criticism, it’s the same thing. “And it does not matter what outsiders think. It matters what we think. And we understand what we do every day. And we understand that we must do it together.”

One of the factors could certainly be that the Knicks optimized the harsh conditions last season as well as any team so as to avoid COVID-19 closures of drills that others went through. The Knicks lost just three players all season to the virus – Derrick Rose and Alec Burks for positive tests and Frank Ntilikina for a contact tracking episode – and were able to keep the rest of the team safe at work.

Compare that to a team like Boston that endured team-wide training interruptions and got the game postponed while watching their best player, Jayson Tatum, not only test positive, but saw him be hampered by lingering symptoms for much of the season.

Under Thibodeau, the Knicks also played every game not only with almost a full roster, but also with a glow in a Game 7, while many teams seemed to float through the season with an eye toward the off-season. Does that explain why, when the playoffs arrived, a team that the Knicks had passed in the standings, Atlanta, was able to dominate them to a victory in five games?

Three times already in the first week of camp, Thibodeau has used the term “zero base” to emphasize that what the team achieved last season does not transfer, does not matter for what this season will bring. He’s not mistaken after seeing the Knicks maximize their potential last season. And while the Knicks can see a clear path to improvement with the additions of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker and the development of their own young players, Thibodeau has stressed that nothing is being given.

“I think you go into every season and we feel that if we do the right things, the results will take care of themselves,” Thibodeau said. “So understand what it means to win, do everything you can to help the team win, and if we get the whole group to do it, we like our chances. There is no easy way to do this. The teams are good, all 30 teams have good talent, so you have to find a way to win games. “

Last year, it was a daily, step-by-step approach that got the Knicks as far as they did. Fournier only looked far from last season, but believes in his first camp with the Knicks that he sees the same kind of hunger.

“It’s the first time I’m with these guys every day, so I get to know them,” he said. “I’m not sure how it was last year on a daily basis, but the young guys are hungry, the veterans are hungry, the coaching staff is hungry. You can definitely feel that work environment. Everyone comes to work to get better, and we have the right mindset and attitude.It has been very pleasant to be with these guys.

“To be honest, I think most of the players will be on a team that will work and will win. No one has fun if no one cares, but of course when you have a coach like Thibs and you will achieve things you bring in players that fit into that mentality. Everyone is on board, of course, so they have done a good job. “