The majority of NBA teams have a clear direction. These instructions are not usually urgent or effective (Orlando) (Brooklyn). Some are represented by lone players (Dallas). Some of them (Chicago) need squinting, but you can still see them. Others are evident but muddled by surprise (Utah) or dissatisfaction (Minnesota).

If not in the forefront of the pointless charge, the New York Knicks are one of them.

However, there are a few groups without a clear direction dispersed around the league.

For longer than most people care to acknowledge, this has been rather obvious. It has become painfully clear following yet another glaring defeat, this time a 145-135 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday that elicited vociferous jeers from the Madison Square Garden audience.

This was the epitome of a Knicks loss in many ways a synthesis of all that is still wrong

Both fixable and irreparable, with a hint to their Jekyll and Hyde extremes.

On 20 of their first 31 shots, they scored 48 points in the first quarter. In the first 12 minutes, nine different players scored, and New York increased its lead to 13.

The Thunder outscored the Knicks by 28 points over the following two quarters (86-58). In the third quarter alone, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 21 of his 37 points, completely destroying New York’s “defense.” Oklahoma City rained down hell from three, making 13 of 18 triples (72.2 percent) over the course of this 24-minute period.

Not bad for a group that was ranked 29th in three-point accuracy (31.8 percent) and 25th in points scored per possession as of Sunday, eh?


Usually, one loss is not entirely illuminating. Over the course of an 82-game regular season, disappointments happen, even when leads are mysteriously blown. However, the Knicks’ loss contained many of the same problems that have dogged them all season long and in seasons past.

Since the 2022–23 season began, New York’s defense has largely enabled teams to fire away from deep without any resistance. Closeouts can range from mediocre to nonexistent over extended periods of time, and the main offenders are precisely who you would expect them to be.

Only the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves let more opponent shots to be uncontested threes. The Knicks don’t offset this volume with a discernible identity elsewhere, placing 27th overall in the frequency with which they give up long-range shots.

They restrict rim-bound looks, although this is frequently a result of offenses not needing to go inside the arc to get good shots. They don’t effectively force turnovers (26th) or crash the defensive glass (25th). Although the latter flaw is recent, it is nonetheless very damaging. The only big man for the Knicks who ranks higher than the 38th percentile in defensive rebounding rate is Julius Randle.

On Sunday, Oklahoma City lost the fast-break competition (it was a 14-14 stalemate). That’s a small miracle in a way. In terms of transition frequency (26th) and points allowed per possession, the Knicks are among the worst five teams (27th). According to Inpredictable, they rank dead lowest in points allowed per possession after a turnover.

positioned just below. The fact that the season is 500 games into it shouldn’t be the end of the world. But this assumes that the Knicks are designed to be better and that their main challenges are the coaches, the injuries, or the chemistry that is still being developed.

Coaching is the solution that is most likely. As soon as the Knicks lost to the Atlanta Hawks on November 2, I urged them to fire Tom Thibodeau. People who had obvious, let’s say, conflicted interests in the matter weren’t too happy about it. I abide by it. I don’t have any new or season-specific problems with him.

Since his Coach of the Year campaign in 2020–21, stubborn roster mismanagement has been his default, and it was on full show Sunday.

At the 9:58 mark of the third quarter, RJ Barrett committed his fourth foul. Then Thibs replaced him with Evan Fournier.

Barrett never again saw the floor.

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