As things stand, the youthful revolution is nigh for the New York Knicks, but the kids won’t just be gifted the keys to the vehicle that is playing time.
Speaking with the media on Tuesday, first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau made it clear that while the development of the organization’s litany of youngsters is prevalent, roles will be “earned,” “not given.”
For the first time in ages, the Knicks seem to be purveying a clear direction for a rebuild that has been two decades in the making.
While the trading of young assets and draft capital was once commonplace for the franchise, the Knicks now have a bevy of youngsters to try and construct a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference — even if it takes a few years to get there.
As training camp began on Tuesday ahead of the NBA’s Dec. 22 start, the Knicks and their fans will very closely be eying the progress of RJ Barrett’s development in his second year in the league, Mitchell Robinson’s evolution as a force down low, whether or not Kevin Knox can fit within the teams’ frontcourt, and the arrival of the team’s most two recent draft picks, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley.
Around that young core, new team president Leon Rose brought in veterans ranging from Austin Rivers to Nerlens Noel to support the young roster.
“I had input with Leon,” Thibodeau said. “And that’s all that I ever asked for is to have my voice heard and that happened. We understood coming in what the challenges would be. We’re excited about the people we do have.”
The new regime will try to start moving the Knicks in the right direction after winning a combined 38 games over the last two seasons. They haven’t won over 32 times in a single campaign since 2013-14, and Thibodeau explained how the eventual turnaround starts now.
“You want to set a level of expectation for training camp of how we want to operate throughout the course of the season and the challenge for us will be how quickly we can all get on the same page,” he said. “We have a new group. This is a little unusual in terms of how quickly we’ll start playing but that’s the challenge for every team.”
That mindset might not immediately translate to an uptick in wins or a sudden push for a playoff spot, but Thibodeau wants to see a change in perception around the organization from inside-out.
“The one thing about New York fans, they’re knowledgeable about the game. If they see a team that is out there working as hard as they can, playing smart, and playing together, that will be recognized,” he said. “If we’re taking care of all the little things, I think the big things will end up taking care of themselves. As long as we’re improving each and every day, good things are coming.”