After the New York Knicks started the 2021 season on a high note, winning five of six games during one stretch, they have since lost three in a row. This slump can only be attributed to a lack of chemistry and familiarity with Tom Thibodeau’s scheme. If you want to throw in a lack of talent, that would also work too.
The Knicks are dealing with significant injuries in the frontcourt, being forced to sign Taj Gibson as a supplement. Their defense has been lackluster, and their offense has completely taken a backseat. Over the last three games, they’ve given up more than 101 points in each and haven’t scored more than 89 points.
Most recently, against the Charlotte Hornets, star power forward Julius Randle scored just 11 points over 30 minutes, a disappointing performance. In fact, not a single Knick scored more than 19 points, with Kevin Knox representing their best offensive threat at 19. Knox has actually played quite well the past few games, shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range and averaging 7.9 points over 21 minutes. Interestingly, the Knicks haven’t had the same starters for the first 10 games in at least 20 years, which is painfully awful.
The injection of new faces and coaches across-the-board was always going to catch up to New York, and they’re fighting through a tough stretch of games. They will face off against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday evening, who feature Kevin Durant. The Knicks are going to need big performances from their more reliable players, and one guy that has struggled the past two games is Austin Rivers.
However, Rivers has only made seven appearances this year and started in one game. He is averaging 28 minutes and 12 points per game, also passing the ball efficiently with 4.5 assists. He can be an influential player for the Knicks, but he simply doesn’t have the chemistry with his team yet. He acknowledges his lack of familiarity, stating:
“Our chemistry is not there yet, we’re still building,’’ said Rivers, who missed all of preseason and the first four games. “That’s why I’m saying be patient because I know it’s only going to get better and better. I haven’t had one practice this entire season. My first time playing with the team was against the Raptors [on Dec. 31]. So I’m still figuring it out.”
I do feel confident that Thibodeau will turn the team around — aggressive defense is his priority. Ultimately, as they continue to grow alongside each other and develop chemistry, we will see more consistent performances, but this is the building of something new and fresh, so there were always going to be speed bumps along the way.