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The Knicks will finish out 2020 in Florida.
That’s appropriate considering the sunny vibe new coach Tom Thibodeau has brought to the team.
The Knicks are coming off two straight impressive victories, over the Bucks and Cavaliers, to register a 2-2 record — their best start since 2015-16. And the coaches have unlocked a potential All-Star in Julius Randle.
In the eight-man rotation Thibodeau used in Tuesday’s victory at Cleveland, seven of the players were on last season’s moribund squad. Yes, coaching matters as Thibodeau’s Knicks face the Raptors on New Year’s Eve in Toronto’s pandemic home of Tampa.
“There is a mentality shift,’’ said one NBA executive who has spoken to the Knicks’ brass. “Thibs wants to win every game and he’s selling that to the players and they are buying into it so far.’’
According to sources, the coaching staff deserves a share of the credit for showing Randle how to play smarter and motivating him to return to training camp fitter.
Randle, whose been grabbing rebounds and busting out on the fast break, dished out praise to Thibodeau after his first triple-double as a Knick. He said Thibodeau instilled unselfishness and organization into a club that has wandered in the wilderness for seven dysfunctional years.
“I think Thibs, from the start of training camp, just did a great job of just implementing his system of how we want to play,’’ Randle said. “We don’t have to second-guess where we’re going to be on the floor. We have great spacing and if the defense is collapsing, I can depend on whoever it is to cut or to be in the right spacing and just make the easy play. We’re all just trying to make the easy play, the right play, and play for each other unselfishly.’’
Randle is averaging 24.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists while his 3-point marksmanship has been much improved (69.2 percent).
The Post has reported Thibodeau watched a ton of film of last season’s club and noticed most of the players didn’t have a strong feel for when to shoot and when to pass.
“He’s really been teaching, from Day 1, getting to the basket, making the right reads and kicking out,’’ Kevin Knox said. “You got a layup or dunk, you finish but if the defense collapses, make the right read and share the game. That’s why a lot of guys are getting open shots.’’
Astoundingly, through four games, the Knicks lead the NBA in 3-point shooting (45.9 percent) and 3-point defense. They have held opponents to 24.4 percent, including two excellent deep-shooting teams in the Bucks and Cavs.
Considering the NBA has become a 3-point-oriented league, that is a delicious sign.
“We’re coming off two good wins,’’ Knox said. “Coach Thibs really has us playing hard defensively, offensively, sharing the ball. I think we’re looking good and we want to keep the pace going and playing together.’’
Thibodeau has used the same starting lineup since opening night — all five players who were on the Knicks last season under David Fizdale and Mike Miller. Fizdale was bounced after 4-18 start and the club finished 21-45.
Elfrid Payton has manned point guard, with Reggie Bullock at shooting guard, while RJ Barrett has shifted to small forward with Randle and Mitchell Robinson up front.
“I think they’re familiar with each other,’’ Thibodeau said of the starting lineup. “It’s a good balance of how they complement each other. We have three guys that can go off the dribble pretty effectively. We have shooting with Reggie and defense. And Mitch is really coming on. So I like the balance of that group, especially with our bench.’’
The bench may change up in Tampa with reinforcements on the way. Austin Rivers, who has missed all of preseason and the first four games, could make his Knicks debut. Rookie Immanuel Quickley, who looked nice in preseason, may be back from a hip pointer.
Both are listed as questionable, as is Alec Burks, a standout off the bench. Neither Rivers nor Quickley was made available to the media on Zoom after Wednesday’s practice.
Thibodeau’s integration of Rivers and Quickley will be made easier since Frank Ntilikina, who has played well in the two victories, has a sprained right knee and will miss at least Thursday’s game. Thibodeau said Ntilikina’s injury was not considered serious.
The potential point-guard glut is an issue for another day. For now, the team looks taut — just the way president Leon Rose envisioned it when he hired Thibodeau, the former Knicks assistant from the Jeff Van Gundy glory days.
The Knicks move the ball and chase down shooters on defense.
“Coach demands for every player to go out and play the right way,’’ Bullock said. “I think he let that be known from Day 1 in camp that we’re not going to force shots. We’re going to share the ball, As long as you’re playing hard on offense, on defense, moving the ball, every player on this team is going to get a chance.”
It just might be a Happy New Year for Thibodeau’s Knicks.
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