knicks
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are spiraling after expecting to build off of last season.

The season is only eight games old for the New York Knicks, but fans are already getting antsy.

The team has only lost two games in a row, but looked very, very bad in both. The defense was lackadaisical, the players looked complacent and, even worse at some points, entitled. Even worse than that, Julius Randle’s MVP-caliber start has cooled, and he now looks afraid to even shoot the ball.

Naturally, it’s no surprise that some Knicks fans are having flashbacks to 2013-14. You remember, the season after the Carmelo Anthony experiment appeared to be working and New York won 54 games and made the East Semis. Cut to the next year, and the New York Knicks stumbled out of the playoffs again.

Even at 5-3, the Knicks’ recent play has been highly discouraging. Tom Thibodeau is too good a coach to let this stand idly by, so just what’s wrong with the New York Knicks?

Where in the world is Julius Randle?

Let’s start with Julius Randle, who has practically vanished in the Knicks’ last five games. He posted 28.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists and an MVP season looked seriously in the works. Randle only shot 43.3% from the field and struggled from three over this short stretch, but the volume plus New York winning helped.

In the five games since, Randle has averaged just 15.8 points on less than 40% shooting. The rebounds and assists are there 11.2 and 5.6 per game, but Randle’s scoring dip has been, to say the least, shocking. Even worse, when he has the ball in his hands, he appears almost hesitant to challenge whoever’s guarding him.

Thankfully, RJ Barrett has found his stroke and has carried the New York Knicks these last three games. But he is only one man and unless Randle returns to top form soon, the Knicks will be led by a Robin in search of a Batman.

Who is leading the offense?

What’s refreshing about the New York Knicks right now is that for all the issues that are still there, coaching isn’t one of them. Tom Thibodeau runs a tight ship and commands respect and, current struggles aside, his teams generally play well for him.

But there’s one bit that’s confused this writer a bit this season. For all the fanfare of signing native New Yorker Kemba Walker to be the team’s starting point guard, Walker has seemed more a shooter this year than a floor general.

Don’t get me wrong. Walker’s leadership is still making an impact alongside Thibodeau veteran Derrick Rose. Yet, he’s averaging a career-low 3.3 assists to go with his 51% shooting from three. In terms of who’s actually running the point on any given possession, it often varies.

Perhaps if Walker were assertively established as the point man, Julius Randle would stop trying to do literally everything.

Where’s the defense?

Back in the ’80s, America experienced, arguably, its first viral sensation when Wendy’s asked, “Where’s the beef?

Now, New York Knicks fans have a similar question: where’s the defense? The Knicks were the top defensive team in the league last year and allowed just 104.7 points per game. This year, so far, they rank 22nd and allow 110.4 points. In three of their last four games, double-digit leads have vanished and the offense has looked desperate in response.

And how is the team supposed to get better on defense? Simple. Just get better on defense. This Knicks team knows how good it is and the players clearly respect the hell out of each other, not to mention Thibodeau. The whole core was maintained in free agency so they could run it back again in 2021-22. Why, after a 5-1 start, has complacency already set in?

Simply put, the New York Knicks aren’t going to get better on defense unless everyone refocuses. After nearly blowing a lead against the New Orleans Pelicans, then blowing one at home against the Toronto Raptors, and then falling flat against the Indiana Pacers, here’s hoping they do.

Final thoughts

As I write this, the Knicks are only a few short hours away from tipping off against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. They’re 4-4 on the year and, having lost three of four, are dealing with a minor Finals hangover.

In Friday’s game, they’ll also be without star 2-guard Khris Middleton, who is in the league’s health and safety protocols.

This is a prime opportunity for the New York Knicks to right the ship for at least one night. Let’s see how they respond after two bad losses.