Graphic by staff graphic designer Angelica Jacobs.
The New York Knicks last made the playoffs in 2013. Following their playoff run, they proceeded to miss the playoffs for the next seven seasons.
That streak broke this season.
Shocking the entire league, the Knicks made the playoffs after many expected them to not even come close. They ranked 12th in their conference the previous season, needed to reach the top 8 to qualify for the playoffs.
They didn’t just scrape by and barely make the playoffs. The Knicks finished the season as a fourth seed in the eastern conference, gaining home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
Jesse Matos, 23, has been a die-hard Knicks fan since 2004, which is when he first attended a game. The Knicks haven’t seen much success since then, only making four playoff appearances and winning one playoff series.
Despite their struggles, being a Knick fan is life-long.
Matos named Carmelo Anthony as his favorite Knick. Anthony has undoubtedly been the most influential Knick player in the past decade, being with the team from 2011 to 2017. He is a ten-time All-Star and has made six All-NBA teams.
Matos stated that Anthony’s era has been his favorite so far.
“That team has energy, stars, and brought life back to the Garden,” he said. “It was electric.”
Prior to trading for Anthony, the Knicks missed the playoffs for six straight seasons. They made the playoffs for three years straight after acquiring him, winning one playoff series in 2013.
After the Knicks failed to make the playoffs from 2014 to 2017, they moved on from Anthony, trading him to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
When asked about the Knicks seven-year playoff drought, Matos stated:
“The games were rough sometimes. Every year I went in with the same mindset that if they clicked they could make some noise. This year they finally did.”
Matos expected the Knicks to make the playoffs this season, but did not expect them to perform so well.
“I thought they could potentially sneak in as an 8th seed,” he said. “Definitely did not expect the 4th seed.”
The Knicks seemingly ran it back with last year’s team, not making any huge moves. But then they added Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, all of whom have cemented their place in the rotation.
Matos believes that coaching, development and chemistry all played factors in the quick turnaround.
The Knicks fired their coach from last season, replacing him with Tom Thibodeau, who has now made the playoffs seven times out of his eight years as a head coach.
Julius Randle and RJ Barrett made huge leaps from last season, solidifying themselves as the best two players on the team. This season, Randle won the league’s Most Improved Player award and was named as an All-Star for the first time in his career.
The Knicks are Randle’s third team. He had spent four seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and one season with the New Orleans Pelicans before signing a three year deal with the Knicks in 2019. This signing was ridiculed at the time, with many believing Randle did not deserve the 20 million a year contract that he signed.
Two years later, that contract is looking like a steal, with Randle transforming into an All-Star at only 26 years old.
With many players from last season returning, the Knicks had already established team chemistry, and the new additions were inserted seamlessly. Every player understood what their role was, and they worked cohesively as a team.
Matos named Randle, Rose and Noel as the three most impactful players on the team.
“Randle is the star of the team, Rose is the spark off the bench, and Noel is so impactful on the defensive end,” he added.
Realistically, Matos believes that the Knicks can defeat the Atlanta Hawks in the first round and compete in the second round. However, he cannot see the Knicks reaching the finals this season.
Beyond this season, Matos expects the team to retain its core and possibly pull off a couple of big free agent signings.
“New York basketball is back. I would like to see them go all in this off-season with their cap space and attractiveness of New York.”
For the last few seasons, the Knicks were unable to capitalize on the allure of New York to attract stars. Their subpar season-by-season performance turned away potential signings, most notably Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, both of whom joined their cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Nets.
With the Knicks stellar season and cap space to sign a legitimate star, they are able to make a huge splash in free agency.
He thinks the Knicks can win a title within the four to five years if they can bring in the right pieces that buy into the culture.
The past decade has been rough for Knicks fans, but good or bad, Knick fans are loyal. Now, their unwavering loyalty has been rewarded with a return to the playoffs and a bright future.
At the publication of this article, the Knicks are 1-1 in their playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, playing Game 3 on Friday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m. EST.