The New York Knicks are stumbling after their hot start to the season.
After dispatching the Milwaukee Bucks earlier in the season, they struggled mightily against the defending champs on Wednesday night, and it led coach Tom Thibodeau to try drastic measures.
As the team dug itself into a massive hole, Thibs decided to pull the starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter and play the bench, led by Derrick Rose, for the entire quarter.
Whether he was trying to send a message or not, something clicked for the team and the bench was able to claw themselves out of the deep hole and even tie the game up at one point. In the end, the Knicks did lose, but they showed heart while doing it.
To make things even stranger, the Knicks have looked a lot better when Rose is in the game versus starter Kemba Walker. Do the Knicks have problems here?
Bench Leads the Way
The Knicks have one of the deepest benches in the NBA, and that’s something that was known coming into the season, but it was tough to imagine they’d be this good.
As pointed out by The Athletic’s Fred Katz, the Knicks are now 27.1 points per 100 possessions better when Rose is in the game. Of course, this usually means Walker has to be on the bench, so that’s not ideal for the starting point guard.
Just before the season started, Rose practically conceded the starting point guard race to Walker before it could even be an issue, but the stats are clear and it’s looking like Rose could’ve been the better choice.
No matter who’s starting, Rose will eventually get more and more minutes as the team catches on to how much more productive they are with him, and it’ll cause Walker to lose minutes. In terms of winning, it appears that this is what needs to happen.
As for the rest of the team, there’s always been a notion that time is needed for the team to gel, but Thibodeau isn’t necessarily buying that.
Thibs Isn’t Having It
In his postgame press conference, Thibodeau didn’t put a lot of stock in the starters needing more time to gel notion.
“When you get to 20 [games], you say 30. And you get to 30, you say 40. And then before you know it, the season’s over. So it’s a bunch of bulls**t,” he said.
Neither Walker or Evan Fournier were on the roster last year, so there is a bit of a learning curve needed there while Rose is very familiar with the core group, so that could play into why they are better with him.
Another possibility is that Walker isn’t quite the player he used to be, which is a given considering his injury history and age, and the fact that he was brought in on a modest contract.
There’s still a long season ahead of the Knicks, but Thibodeau might find himself tinkering with the lineup before long. There are a lot of different options he can play around with, so keep an eye out for any changes on the horizon.