The Knicks opened their 2021-’22 schedule last night at Madison Square Garden versus the Boston Celtics. Their slate was clean after a 4-0 preseason that in the grand scheme of things means nothing. The players and coaches will succinctly attest to Game 1 being when it all starts to count in a consequential way.
After going 41-31 last season, earning the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, and making the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-’13 campaign under then head coach Mike Woodson, the franchise is seeking to build on that success, go deep into the postseason and purge the pain of a 4-1 first round elimination by Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
Knicks forward Julius Randle, who elevated his game in his second year with the squad to become a first-time All-Star and All-NBA Second Team selection, in addition to winning the league’s Most Improved Player award, said on Tuesday he was anticipating the Garden crowd to be raucous to set off the long journey.
“Definitely expecting chaos,” said Randle, who averaged team highs of 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists a season ago. “I think the city is excited to get basketball back. We’re excited for the start of a new season, so it’ll be fun.”
The 6-foot-9 forward is deeply cognizant that his personal accomplishments and the Knicks’ newfound success aren’t guaranteed to carry over into this season. “What happened last season? That s–t over with, this is on to the new one,” Randle firmly asserted. “Next season. We’re focused on that one, a day at a time.”
The first full year of the tenure of Knicks president Leon Rose, hired in March of 2020 to replace his predecessor, Steve Mills, transpired favorably. He brought Thibodeau onboard and the duo established a foundation for a culture of winning. But there is still much more work to do and they are acutely aware of the often fleeting and illusory nature of prosperity. Long-term, sustained success is the mission achieved one day, one game at a time no matter how overused a cliché it may be.
The targets are higher now. The fans’ wants and ambitions have increased. Just reaching the playoffs will not be satisfactory. Nothing less than a playoff series victory. No steps backwards. Winning forms a more voracious appetite for greater winning. Scrutiny is magnified and amplified.
Welcome to the new season Knicks.