Alec Burks
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Alec Burks has been a silver lining for the struggling New York Knicks.

The New York Knicks engine may be broken, but Alec Burks and his motor never stopped this week.

Even as the Knicks went 2-2 last week, despite grossly underperforming again, Burks was a beacon. He demanded the ball. His defense in one particular game was off the charts. Burks was absolutely fearless with the ball in his hands and refused to shy away from hard shots with a hand in his face.

And the next couple of weeks could potentially be hell on earth for the struggling Knicks. Long story short, until his teammates learn how to communicate/remember how to actually play basketball, Alec Burks will need to be as great as he was this past week, and maybe even better.


Alec Burks can do it all

When the Knicks re-signed Burks in free agency, no one was more excited than yours truly. Alec Burks had been a key piece of the New York Knicks bench in 2020-21 and his energy was infectious. I even wrote how he should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year last season. Had it not been for the Knicks landing Derrick Rose in a trade, perhaps Burks would have.

It’s taken him a while to get his wheels under him in 2021-22 but if last week was any indication, the Alec Burks of old has returned. He averaged 14 points per game and shot over 46% from three, and also showed off his two-way skills thanks to aggressive defense.

Take Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets, for example. Yes, they’re the worst team in the league and the Knicks should have blown them out from the start, but it was a close game and Burks was the hero.

On top of scoring 20 points with six threes, Burks was an absolute force on defense and came away with five steals. As for the rest of the week, even when his New York Knicks trailed, he continued to play hard as though his team was winning and needed to close out.

Over the next couple of weeks, this is the Alec Burks the struggling Knicks will so desperately need.


The Knicks’ rough road ahead

Looking ahead, the Knicks will need Burks at his best and for current team chemistry issues to miraculously end. Five of their next six opponents are playoff teams, including the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 30. And on Saturday, they visit Atlanta for a playoff rematch with Trae Young and the Hawks.

Oh, and let’s not forget they kick off this week when LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers visit Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

That’s right, fans. The New York Knicks are in the arena and about to run the gauntlet. This is absolutely the NBA edition of Gladiator and, disappointing though it is, Russell Crowe isn’t riding in wearing full armor to help the team when they’re struggling.

The Knicks will need Julius Randle to be as aggressive as he was Sunday against the Chicago Bulls. RJ Barrett needs to get off the schneid and be in full Maple Mamba form. The entire banged up, overwhelmed, and borderline lost New York Knicks need all hands on deck starting last week.


Final Thoughts

That includes Alec Burks, who was only fueled by his awareness of his team struggling instead of letting it dumb down his game.

Derrick Rose is the clear leader of the New York Knicks bench, but make no mistake. Rose may be the fancy vintage Mercedes, but Burks is absolutely the refurbished V8 engine that makes it go. Without him, Rose would likely sputter along by himself with an occasional big play from Obi Toppin.

Alec Burks’ motor can be infectious when it’s in top form. We saw last year how he can take control of a game, even if he is coming off the bench. The threes flying combined with never-say-die defense is what this team needs right now, and it’d be nice if the starters got the memo.

In the meantime, Burks can continue doing what he does best: being a spark plug. With the tough schedule ahead, here’s hoping his light doesn’t dim anytime soon.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.