The elephant in the room is not Tom Thibodeau’s offensive play-calling.
It’s not Julius Randle’s propensity to hold the ball nor Immanuel Quickley’s pending restricted free agency.
The elephant in the room is not Jalen Brunson’s admittedly poor play in the FIBA World Cup, nor is it R.J. Barrett’s cheek-to-cheek grin at the podium a month after eliminating Brunson’s Team USA squad.
It is not Leon Rose — at least not today — the ventriloquist of a Knicks general manager who operates from the shadows, opting against addressing local media despite Sean Marks having represented the Nets’ front office a week ago.
The elephant in the room is, in fact, two: the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, a pair of already-great-turned-how-is-this-legal NBA title favorites after Damian Lillard’s trade to the Bucks rippled into Jrue Holiday’s arrival in Boston. That no matter how over the Knicks achieve, it won’t register after landscape-altering moves by two teams sporting different shades of green.
The Celtics and Bucks are world beaters, defensive juggernauts who each addressed a burning need for more offensive firepower this summer.
The Knicks? They will be a work in progress, a work they hope picks up where they left it: top-10 in three-pointers made and attempted; about league-average in three-point percentage; top-two in rebounding; and getting to the foul line a ton.
This is what Thibodeau is calling his base, Point A for a Knicks team hoping to build on the successes of last season without deluding themselves that success is guaranteed after upsetting the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s clear the status quo will be insufficient after a pair of mega-upgrades for the Bucks and Celtics.
“I think that’s what we have to be careful of: is to make an assumption that automatically it’ll be better,” Thibodeau said. “The East is strong, and we got to understand that and we got to embrace it.”
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