The NBA playoffs are long forgotten in New York, but the men of the Westchester Knicks have been one of the G League’s most consistent teams.
On Thursday afternoon, the New York Knicks inched closer to a playoff spot. That sentence seems like New York lunacy in 2019. But, in White Plains, it’s a refreshing reality and a sign of continued consistency in professional basketball.
Sure, it’s “only” the NBA G League. But with a parent organization desperate for any kind of positive basketball happenings, the performance of the Westchester Knicks is a rare silver lining.
Hosting local schoolchildren in a special late morning tip-off, Westchester topped the Windy City Bulls 127-118 at Westchester County Center. Jameel Warney led the way with 33 points, while Kadeem Allen posted a triple-double, earning 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. Stephen Zimmerman added a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds
The win puts the Knicks (27-18) one step closer to their second consecutive G League playoff berth. With names migrating throughout the season, either with the Knicks or other Association squads, head coach Mike Miller has been pleased with how his team has maintained consistency.
“We have a good group of guys,” Miller said. “We have a really good, strong core that we’ve been able to keep. As guys move up, it gives other guys opportunities. We’ve been really pleased with the progression.”
Twenty-two different players have partaken in at least one game with Westchester this season. All have contributed to a diverse brand of basketball that situates them in third place in the G League’s Eastern Conference. In comparison, the Long Island Nets and Lakeland Magic, the Brooklyn and Orlando affiliates ahead of Westchester, have respectively seen 19 and 16 players see action.
Included in the aforementioned tally of 22 are Luke Kornet and John Jenkins, both of whom remain on the NBA Knicks’ active roster. Allen, a former All-Pac-12 nominee out of Arizona, spent 10 games in the NBA earlier this year. With the 50-game G League season coming to a close, more promotions could be on the way.
Westchester, however, hasn’t let future NBA dreams get in the way of a strong G League season.
“We practice great, we try to come out and play how we practice,” Allen remarked. “(We) just play basketball. When you’re playing basketball, you can’t go to the playoffs. We just play basketball. You never know who’s watching.
“You never know who’s watching you play. So we always carry ourselves with great character.”
Limited to single-game playoff rounds until the NBA G League Finals (which are a best-of-three set), a good season can be wiped out in a snap. Westchester knows this lesson all too well, having seen a G League-best 32-18 campaign erased by Raptors 905 in last season’s second round.
Few players remain from the previous team, but it serves as a reminder of how quickly success at the professional level can vanish. Westchester is eager to rewrite the script, despite the dangerous G League postseason landscape.
Thursday served as a good start to the season’s final stanzas. A speedy 22-14 run in the first half provided little drama in the latter stages, though that didn’t pacify the raucous youth crowd. Windy City (24-20) did make a cut into their deficit late in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks slammed the door in style. With the Knicks’ lead cut to 106-99, Allen earned his triple-double by putting in an offensive rebound off the glass. Fouled during the play, the subsequent made free throw reestablished a double-digit lead.
Westchester also provided some earlier suspense with a trio of buzzer beaters, each coming at the end of the first three quarters.
“We started the year a certain way, and we’ve stayed that way,” Miller said of the late-season stretch. “The guys have bought into because I think they’ve seen guys that get called up late or they get opportunities late. They understand, the direction they’re trying to go, that’s our best chance to be successful. Help yourself. Who knows what the day is, what the needs are, what’s going to happen. We have to be ready every day.”
Westchester returns to action on Sunday afternoon in Portland, hitting the road to take on the Maine Red Claws (1:00 p.m. ET, MSG/NBATV).