Closing lineups in focus as Knicks adjust to new offensive scheme

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Tom Thibodeau Julius Randle side angle low five white uniform
Tom Thibodeau Julius Randle side angle low five white uniform

Julius Randle believes the Knicks offense is out of sync at the moment.

RJ Barrett agrees. But, like Randle, he’s not ready to panic.

“It really wasn’t there at the beginning of last year either,” Barrett said of New York’s offensive rhythm. “That’s why you have 82 games. It depends on when you hit that stride and we’re trying to figure it out. We really have three new starters. We’ll figure it out eventually if we put the work in. Everybody puts in work every day. So it’s a matter of time.”

The Knicks were 7-8 through 15 games last season and finished the year with the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference.

Last year, the club ran its offense regularly through Randle. This season, the offense doesn’t run through Randle as often.

It seems like everyone involved is still adjusting to the new offensive schemes.

Randle, who is shooting 41 percent from the field, was asked on Wednesday night to assess his offense thus far.

“It hasn’t been great. It hasn’t been great. Like I said, a lot of this stuff is rhythm trying to find each other out," he said. "I think it’s been exactly how the season went. There’s been good days and there’s been not great days. That’s pretty much who we are right now. We’re not a consistent team, a consistent basketball team yet, but we’ll get there.”

It’s early in the season, but you can be sure that the Knicks are operating with a sense of urgency right now. They’re 8-7 with Houston coming to the Garden on Saturday. They face the Bulls in Chicago in the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday. That game is the first of a rough six-game stretch.

Will the Knicks’ lineups look a little different by the end of those six games?

By almost any measure, the starters have been mostly bad while the reserves have been solid.

Tom Thibodeau has had to mix and match lineups in the fourth quarter of close games. His closing lineups worked well on Monday against Indiana, when New York held the Pacers to 10 fourth-quarter points.

But the lineups didn’t work as well on Wednesday. New York was outscored, 13-4, in the final four minutes of the loss to Orlando.

“The good thing about the depth is that you have depth. Sometimes, the tough thing is trying to figure out who’s going well and that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said. “But look — we’re capable of doing better, and we have to. Our only way out is, we gotta work our way out of this.”

AN UPDATE ON THE PORTLAND INVESTIGATION

The Blazers’ investigation into president of basketball operations Neil Olshey appears to be in its final stages. The law firm conducting the investigation interviewed Olshey earlier this week, per SNY sources. The firm has interviewed scores of people during its investigation into Olshey and the workplace environment during his Blazers tenure.

Olshey is owed more than $12 million on his current contract, per SNY sources.

So if Portland parts ways with Olshey, which seems to be the most likely outcome, Olshey’s remaining salary could be a sticking point between the executive and the organization.

From a local perspective, an opening in Portland could lead to some movement within the Knicks or Nets front offices.

Brooklyn has several executives held in high regard around the league. For the Knicks, it’s worth noting that general manager Scott Perry has a strong relationship with Chauncey Billups, the Blazers’ current head coach.

Perry was an executive with the Pistons during Billups’ tenure there, which included an NBA title.

If Olshey is let go, it would be logical for Portland to seek input from Billups regarding the next top basketball executive.

Perry and the Knicks agreed to a two-year extension during the offseason. Team president Leon Rose has credited Perry for helping New York’s front office put together a 41-win team last season.