New York Basketball Bouncing Back with Brunson and the Knicks

New York Basketball Bouncing Back with Brunson and the Knicks

Growing up as a New York sports fan wasn’t easy; I was born just too late to truly enjoy the Giants’ two Super Bowl wins in 2007 and 2011 as well as the Yankees’ World Series win in 2009. Unfortunately, New York has seen little sports success in the more recent decade, the time when I gained more sports knowledge and became a more avid fan of these teams. However disappointing the Giants and Yankees were, there are still many bright memories from the past decade that soften the blow of their inability to become champions. The Giants secured an electric upset playoff win on the road against the Vikings last year, and the Yankees have often made it far into the playoffs. However, there is one New York team who, for my entire life, I can’t remember finding any success at all: The Knicks. The Knicks have experienced a decade of nothing more than mediocrity, laden with losing seasons and first-round playoff exits. But with the arrival of new stars and an exciting new aura, it appears that Knick basketball is finally heading in the championship direction. 

With the regular season of the NBA coming to a close, the Knicks found themselves in a place where many fans and experts alike would not expect them to be: the second seed in the eastern conference. Finishing with a record of 50 wins and 32 losses, their first 50 win season since 2012, the Knicks surpassed all expectations and put together performances that made the city proud. Not only was their record impressive, but they also managed to finish above eastern powerhouses in the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Philadelphia 76ers led by Joel Embiid. Furthermore, the most impressive aspect of their accomplishments is that they were able to reach these heights while not having All-Star Julius Randle for the majority of the later-season games, forcing coach Tom Thibodeau to restructure the team and build creative wins in unlikely situations. 

So without Randle, who stepped up to the plate? Undoubtedly, the name that comes to mind is Jalen Brunson, the Jersey local, 27-year-old, 6′ 2” guard that the Knicks signed from the Dallas Mavericks in July, 2022. Brunson has been nothing short of Superman for Knicks fans, as his relentless play style and winning mentality have been the driving force behind their success this year. Averaging 28.7 points per game, Brunson was amongst the elite players of the league in scoring, finishing behind only MVP-likely Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the one seed Thunder’s Shai-Gilgeous Alexander. His averages were good enough to place him above massive names like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Nikola Jokic. His 6.7 assists per game were also good enough for 13th in the league. His top-tier performances also earned him his first ever All-Star selection, and put him in a position where he might be chosen as a All-NBA First-Team or Second-Team guard. On the court, Brunson has displayed excellent driving, finishing around the rim, as well as vision in passing. Off the court, he has shown admirable sportsmanship and modesty that makes him easy to like. However, he didn’t get the Knicks’ 50 wins on his own.

Two key supporters of the Knicks’ campaign were two of Brunson’s teammates when he played at Villanova: Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart. DiVincenzo, a 27-year-old, 6′ 4” shooting guard, has added firepower to the offense with his electric three-point shooting. He scored 283 three-pointers over the season, placing him at third in the league; he’s only behind Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic in that metric. Hart, a 29-year-old, 6′ 4” guard/small forward, has helped out on both offense and defense. He consistently puts up numbers in many of the major stats, finishing fifth in the league in triple doubles (a game with ten points, ten rebounds, and ten assists) having six.

Another instrumental part of the Knicks’ success came with a mid-season trade that included OG Anunoby. Anunoby, a 6′ 7″ small forward, was brought to the Knicks on December 30 in a trade with the Toronto Raptors that received heavy backlash from fans because of losing players R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. Anunoby has had success in the past being part of the 2019 winning Raptors team and being selected for the NBA All-Defensive Team in 2023. However, with the Knicks fans hurt after losing crowd favorites, he had to prove that trading for him was worth it. So far, it seems like it was. On December 30, the Knicks were the eight seed in the East. Since then, they have risen six places and boast a monster record of 20 wins and three losses when Anunoby has played. Thanks to his lockdown defense, Anunoby has cemented himself as a key player on the Knicks and the fans have responded in kind.

Other Knicks that deserve appreciation are Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Hartenstein, Precious Achiuwa, and Jericho Sims, who add other fundamentals and bring energy to the game, especially when coming off the bench.

Looking forward, the Knicks have their first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers after their nail-biting play-in win against the Miami Heat on April 17. With reigning MVP Joel Embiid coming back from injury and star Tyrese Maxey gaining spotlight in his teammates absence, the Sixers will be sure to provide tough opposition. As the Knicks are the higher seed, they will have home court advantage in games one in two, as well as in games five and seven if it’s necessary to decide the winner.

Overall, this season was incredibly promising for the Knicks as their players developed in rapid fashion and exceeded all expectations set for them. No matter if they weren’t predicted to be in the two seed, they made the push to earn it, and now have the chance to make a playoff run to break recent years of disappointment. So, break out your Knicks gear, and support!

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About the Contributor
Liam Tenenbaum
Liam Tenenbaum, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Liam Tenenbaum ('25) is a Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Echo. He enjoys writing satire based and opinionated journalism. He enjoys skiing competitively, traveling the world, trying new food, and watching sports games.