Julius Randle organized a players-only dinner for the New York Knicks on Monday night in Salt Lake City ahead of their matchup with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. RJ Barrett confirmed the event when speaking to reporters after shootaround, saying the players are "trying to hold each other accountable."
The dinner, a new twist on the players-only meeting, came in light of the team's embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their most recent outing. They gave up 145 points in regulation and allowed the Thunder to shoot 62.5 percent from the field -- defensive marks that would be shocking for any team, let alone one coached by Tom Thibodeau.
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"It was good, good to have a team dinner like that," Barrett said. "Try to figure this out the best that we can. We all care, trying to get this going on the right track."
After a 3-1 start, the Knicks have fallen apart in recent weeks. They are 3-6 in their last nine games, with all six of those defeats coming by double digits, and have allowed 116 points per 100 possessions in those games. That defensive rating ranks 28th in the league during that time period. For the season they are now 24th in defensive rating (113.5), 29th in opponent 3-pointers made per game (14.1) and 25th in both opponent second-chance points (15.7) and fastbreak points (15.9) per game.
"But our defense was the problem," Thibodeau said following the loss to the Thunder. "We have to fix that. It's hard to win if we don't make a better effort to defend. … If we're relying on trying to outscore people, that's not going to work. Our margin for error is small."
As bad as things have been for the Knicks lately, they could get even worse over the next week. Tuesday's game against the Jazz kicks off a brutal five-games-in-seven-days road trip that also features meetings with the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.
Pressure is already mounting on both the team and Thibodeau, and the latter could easily find himself out of a job soon if this West Coast swing goes as poorly as some expect. For now, at least, he still has the support of those on the roster. "His body of work speaks for itself," Barrett said. "He knows what he's doing."
But while past performance is great, that will only save Thibodeau for so long.