No one can accuse the New York Knicks of simply going through the motions throughout the preseason slate.
Wednesday night’s 108-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons improved the Knicks’ exhibition record to 3-0 ahead of the 202ason, which starts next week. It also featured some big-time minutes for the team’s starting unit.
Julius Randle posted 29 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes while diving for loose balls with the same sort of vigor that comes in a late-season playoff push. RJ Barrett played 34 minutes and added 12 points while Derrick Rose posted 14 points in 31 minutes.
“This is all I have until the regular season comes and it’s full speed. So I don’t want to rest. I want to play,” Rose said, expanding on the importance of the intensity surrounding the preseason. “I want to catch my rhythm, just get used to the ball being in my hands… I have to shake the rust off”
It’s a continuation of the hard-nosed, blue-collar basketball that won the hearts of New Yorkers last year under head coach Tom Thibodeau, who defied the odds in his first year at the helm and took the Knicks to the playoffs as a No. 4 seed.
The mantra of “no days off” clearly pertains to games that don’t count, too — though Thibodeau and the rest of the Knicks will tell you they do.
“Everything matters to me. Everything that we do,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve seen guys who are very successful do it another way… For us, we’re an organization that’s building right now. We want to get established. Our fight is continuing every day and I love the fight in our guys.”
There undoubtedly is a sour taste in the mouths of the Knicks after they crashed out of the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks which featured Randle being neutralized after his breakout season.
“Every game is gearing towards the real thing. That’s what it’s about,” Randle said. “Actually, I’m happy we had a game like this where we weren’t shooting well and weren’t in a great rhythm and had to figure it out. It’s a good test for us mentally to get ready for the season.”
But again, there is Thibodeau with a reminder that there isn’t much reason to be feeling satisfied.
“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re ready,” Thibodeau said. “I think being honest with ourselves… is critical each day. When you come in, be alert, be ready to go, bring the focus, bring energy and the concentration. Everyone has that responsibility.”