To describe the 13-17 New York Knicks this season in one word, most would say something like “underachieving”.
They are the fourth-worst team in the Eastern Conference and have a -1.5 point differential per game.
Their recent struggles could partially be blamed on the large number of Knicks players who have entered health and safety protocol.
However, many other teams have had similar situations.
Since beginning the season 11-9, the Knicks have dropped eight of their last 10 contests.
Only the NBA-worst Detroit Pistons have a worse record in their last 10 games.
For those wondering, they have a 1-9 record, and those very Pistons will be at the Mecca on Tuesday:
Working from home this week 🏟
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 20, 2021
Unfortunately, the home cooking may not bode so well for the Knicks.
Just one season after the Knicks posted a 25-11 home record, they are struggling at Madison Square Garden in 2021-22:
- Home record this season: 5-10
- Road record this season: 8-7
On the bright side, they face two non-playoff teams this week:
- Detroit Pistons (December 21): last place in the East
- Washington Wizards (December 23): sixth in the East
- Atlanta Hawks (December 25): 11th in the East
In addition, none of the games during the three-game homestand are back-to-backs.
So, who are the veterans on the Knicks that need to step up and get the Knicks back to a .500 record soon?
Here are the top two veterans.
2. Julius Randle
2021 All-Star Julius Randle, who averaged a 24-point and 10-rebound double-double last year, needs to at least reach those numbers again this season.
After posting 20 points and nine rebounds on Saturday in Boston, he is once again leading the team in points (19.6) and rebounds (9.7).
The 2020-21 Most Improved Player Award winner may make the All-Star Game again in 2022, but the eighth-year big man has to limit his turnovers.
His usage rate has decreased from last season, but his turnover rate has increased.
If he can reduce his turnovers, then that will allow Randle to step up and get this Knicks team back to winning.
1. Kemba Walker
If Tom Thibodeau allows, then Kemba Walker could be the x-factor for the 2021-22 Knicks.
Earlier this season, Walker was removed from the team’s rotation.
However, with the string of players who have entered health and safety protocols, Walker was thrust into the starting lineup.
In his return to TD Garden, the former Boston Celtics point guard played more than 37 minutes and scored a season-high 29 points on 5-for-11 shooting from deep.
He also got to the free-throw line for 10 attempts, of which he made eight in the 114-107 loss.
The 3-point makes and attempts along with the free throw makes and attempts were also season bests for the 11th-year guard out of the University of Connecticut.
The four-time All-Star has not been selected to the All-Star Game since 2020, and he may never be back there again.
Nevertheless, the 31-year-old Walker still has a chance to make an impact for contending teams.
If the Knicks can get healthy again, maybe they can contend.
Kept on fighting. Back home on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/JRnVWMOq90
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 19, 2021
Those four were the only Knicks with more than four points in New York’s second game against the Celtics this season.
They will need more help quickly.
Maybe that can come in the form of players like Barrett, Toppin, and Quickley.