A small passage of time has been very good to the New York Knicks.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the team was 39-27, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and winner of nine straight games. Its core, led by Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, was clicking as well as it could have reasonably hoped. They just ripped the heart out of the Boston Celtics.
The whole thing was very different from where the team was three months ago, when they had opened the season with a 10-13 record and looked the way a Tom Thibodeau team usually looks when the organization has stagnated.
Thibodeau was apparently aware enough that things weren’t going well, as Fox Sports reported Tuesday the head coach knew executive vice president William Wesley had been pushing for his firing for about a year and even told a friend in early December the team was on the verge of cutting him loose:
“They’re going to fire me,” [Thibodeau] said.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Thibodeau’s days being potentially numbered at Madison Square Garden, as SNY reported last month that Wesley had at least partially blamed Thibodeau’s coaching for the team’s pre-All Star break struggles in conversations with team owner James Dolan.
That argument has obviously become a lot less convincing in the time since.
None of this is to say Thibodeau is singularly responsible for New York’s recent success or that the Knicks will live happily ever after; it just goes to show how much an NBA team’s fortunes can change in the span of three months.
Case in point: hours after Thibodeau’s belief he would be fired was reported Tuesday, the team blew a 16-point lead in a 112-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets.