The New York Knicks are in freefall, and, according to SNY's Ian Begley, 2021 Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau doesn't have the support within the organization that he used to. More specifically, according to a second SNY story on the subject, Knicks executive William Wesley -- "Worldwide Wes" -- has criticized Thibodeau's coaching in private conversations with owner James Dolan. Wesley has told Dolan that Thibodeau deserves a significant share of the blame for the team's recent slide, per SNY.
Begley did not report that Thibodeau is on the hot seat heading into the All-Star break -- he actually listed four reasons to expect Thibodeau to finish the season -- but that, even before their dispiriting loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, things had gotten grim enough that "some people of influence at Madison Square Garden" were losing confidence in him. He also reported that Thibodeau was angry that the front office didn't upgrade the roster at the trade deadline.
Why might things be tense in New York right now? Well, here's what has happened in the Knicks' three most recent games:
- In Portland on Saturday, Feb. 12, the Blazers outscored the Knicks 35-11 in the fourth quarter. New York led by as many as 23 points but lost 112-103. (Portland is on an unexpected winning streak after a series of injuries and future-focused trades stripped the roster of most of its prominent players.)
- The Knicks lost 127-123 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime at home on Monday, despite having a double-digit lead in the third quarter. (The Thunder entered the game having lost 17 of 21 games and were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort.)
- The Nets were down 28 at MSG before storming back with a barrage of buckets from rookie Cam Thomas. New York was outscored 38-19 in the fourth quarter on national television. (Brooklyn was without Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris.)
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Before the blunder in the battle of the boroughs, New York had another meltdown on national television: On Feb. 5, it blew a 21-point lead on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks enter the All-Star break with a record of 25-34, having lost seven of their last eight games and 13 of their last 16. They are 12th in the East, 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot.
New York overachieved in Thibodeau's first regular season, but the honeymoon is over and the team has lost its identity. To merely qualify for the play-in, the Knicks will need to go on a tear -- and get a bit lucky -- after the break.
Then again, after being thoroughly outclassed in the first round last year, maybe all these awful losses aren't the worst thing for the future of the franchise. Maybe, in the big picture, it is better that Thibodeau hasn't managed to wring a winning record out of this roster. This way, the Knicks know how far away they are.