The Knicks have dropped six of their last seven at Madison Square Garden.
In some of those losses, they’ve looked like a team that’s disconnected -- I’m thinking specifically about the home losses to the Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the road loss to the Nets.
In other home losses, they’ve competed and come up short -- against the Memphis Grizzlies and Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
After the loss to the Bucks, Tom Thibodeau and some of his players expressed optimism about the team’s trajectory.
“If you’re watching us play, you see that we’re doing a lot of good things,” RJ Barrett said. “We lost a couple close games to some good teams, so we’ve just got to learn from those specific situations and get better so that we can come out with those wins and really string them together.”
The wins need to come soon, though. Internally at MSG, there is heightened scrutiny on the club’s game-by-game performance. That scrutiny was raised after the loss to Oklahoma City and it’s not solely focused on Thibodeau. The entire organization is under the microscope amid a 10-12 start.
Are the Knicks on the cusp of a breakthrough? They face the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers at home this weekend amid a tough stretch. They don’t have an "easy" game until the end of the month, when they face the San Antonio Spurs (Dec. 29) and Houston Rockets (Dec. 31).
The mood among players seems to be positive at this point.
“We were just talking to the coaches about being optimistic. Like we were in these games,” Jalen Brunson said. "And I talked about this before, I think it was after Brooklyn. There are ways we can lose games and still make progress. Obviously, losing sucks and you never want to lose, but you have to take the positive out of things unless you play really bad. And we fought with one of the best teams in the league [tonight] and we have to take a lot of positives from it."
Fans expecting more from these Knicks don’t want to hear about positive aspects of losses. But Brunson is right -- New York has been competitive against some good teams lately.
At the quarter point of the season, they’re on pace to win 37 games. New York won 37 games last season. Would you see 37 wins as progress this season?
That probably depends on dozens of different factors. But people in influential corners of MSG probably want to see more than 37 wins from a team in the third year of the Leon Rose era. So it’s winning time for this Knicks team.
No, Rose’s Knicks won’t be able to tank for a draft pick if things go sideways. The expectation is to show progress from last season. So far, any progress has come in small doses and it’s been followed by a bad loss or two. That’s a pattern the Knicks need to change.