The Knicks starting lineup has been largely the same for the entire season, and has been largely terrible in that span.
After Wednesday night’s blowout loss to the Heat, the Knicks’ starters’ collective plus/minus is now at -114 in 364 minutes, per The Athletic. That is worst point differential in the NBA, and the unit’s lack of cohesion took center stage again on Wednesday in Miami, with Julius Randle finishing with a -34, RJ Barrett a -36, Kemba Walker a -30, and Evan Fournier a -27.
Once again asked if he is considering a change to his rotations, particularly the starting lineup, head coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t rule it out, but still wouldn’t place blame for the team’s slump directly on the starting five.
“We’ll see,” Thibodeau said. “The thing is, it’s not just the starters. The bench did some good things, but we need everyone to play well.”
The starters were already getting blown out in the first quarter of Monday night’s game, prompting former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy to say on the ESPN broadcast that he felt all five starters should be taken out of the game. When they shared the floor together to start the third, it was another lopsided affair, as both Barrett and Randle posted a -17 in just over nine minutes of playing time in the period. But Thibodeau stuck to his status quo, even while the status quo of Knicks starters getting collectively pummeled also remained.
“[Mitchell Robinson] comes out pretty quick and so does Kemba, just because that’s the normal rotation,” Thibodeau said. “Now you start filtering guys in to mix and match. We wanted to see what we could get out of that group to start. We started out slow…just have to be better. That’s it.”
Thibodeau has held tight to his rotations all season. Early on, he stressed that the starters needed time to build chemistry in its first season of playing together. When the Knicks acquired Cam Reddish from the Hawks, Thibodeau stressed that the former top-10 draft pick would have to earn a spot in a Knicks rotation that was already established. But the current rotations have only brought disappointment to what was once a promising season, and Thibodeau will likely face more and more pressure to shuffle the deck. But even after Wednesday’s embarrassment, he doesn’t seem to agree that such a change will prove to be the difference.
“We’ve had the starters play really well,” Thibodeau said. “The challenge for us is we have to get everyone playing well. We had a stretch there where the starters were playing well and the bench was struggling, and now it’s vice versa. We’ve got to get it going to fix it.”
Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1