Nothing about the New York Knicks 2021-2022 campaign has gone according to plan, and fans have spent all season trying to determine what variable is missing from last year’s equation.
Because after going 41-31 and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2014, they’re just 27-38 this season with 17 games remaining, firmly out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Could it be as simple as a chemistry shift?
And in regards to overall morale, the team surprisingly didn’t bring back bench mob leader Theo Pinson, who was supplanted on the pine nearly all of last season, constantly focused on the positives.
He appeared in just 17 games for the club and averaged 2.0 minutes on the season.
As the New York Knicks prepare to face off against the Dallas Mavericks, who he ultimately signed with, the 26-year old guard talked about the surprise he met in free agency.
Pinson: ‘I Did Want to Come Back’
He made sure to point out that he was surprised that a deal never formulated for him to return to the New York Knicks:
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised…I think definitely after the year we had, the promising future we had, the morale we had around the locker room, I couldn’t see a situation where I wouldn’t be back.
And more importantly, Pinson made sure to note that he did everything within his power to let them know of his maintained interest in a reunion:
It was weird. I did want to come back. I love New York City. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere…I went to UNC. So clearly I want to be on the big stage. That was nothing new to me, I loved it. That first game in Madison Square Garden in the playoffs, it was unreal. You can’t dream of stuff like that. I was there all summer. I was in New York all summer. Just trying to keep my foot in the door. I didn’t know what direction they were going to go in, so I tried to make a good impression and stay around, work out with everybody and everything. And it just didn’t work out. Just had to move on.
Based on how highly he speaks about the team, and a number of his former teammates, don’t rule out a reunion taking place at a later date, potentially this summer.
But for now, Theo Pinson will continue doing what he does best as a culture guy and hype man.
And the New York Knicks will continue on as a team that’s most lacking in that department.
Although things have certainly been steadily improving in recent days.
Randle, Thibodeau Commend Quickley’s Recent Play
Following their commanding 131-115 win over the Sacramento Kings, Immanuel Quickley was a hot topic for the players and coaching staff in their postgame availability.
Julius Randle, who scored a career-high 46 points, was effusive in his praises (via the New York Post) of the 22-year old:
Quick’s been playing great. I think the biggest thing with him is he’s playing free. He’s kind of clearing his mind and going out there and hooping and trusting his work…He’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, especially for a kid that young. So he’s just got to keep going, keep playing like that.
Not to be outdone, head coach Tom Thibodeau made sure to recognize Quickley’s recent play too:
I think when he’s open, he shoots. When he’s guarded, he makes the play. He’s playing really great defense, hustling. He’s rebounding the ball, doing a lot of really good things. He’s crafty. He’s not afraid of big moments. When he plays like that, he’s really, really good.
Randle echoed the sentiments about the guard’s playmaking abilities:
I just think that he’s being who he is as a player. He’s not really worried about playmaking and stuff like that. He’s a scorer. He’s a shooter. He can shoot the ball and knows how to put the ball in the basket. That’s who he is at heart and he’s not worrying about the other things as much.
Ironically enough, Quickley downplayed his scoring when asked about the uptick in his production, crediting an all-around effort and his teammates for his recent stretch of games:
I feel like I’m defending a little bit better, so that helped me out, trying to rebound a little bit more. Finding other ways to affect the game other than just scoring, so that always helps. And I got some great teammates. RJ [Barrett] and Julius played great [in Sacramento] and we’re getting some wins now, so that’s what it’s all about.
Perhaps the correlation between Immanuel Quickley’s rise and the New York Knicks’ back-to-back wins will finally get him a bump into the starting lineup.
But fans shouldn’t hold their breath.