For the first 10 games this season, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau kept the same starting lineup intact, a testament to his belief in the quintet and the group’s ability to avoid injuries.
It is believed the Knicks haven’t had the same starters for the first 10 games in at least 20 years.
The starting streak ended Monday at Charlotte, and so did any semblance of a good start to the game.
Reggie Bullock, who has been the Knicks’ rock of a starting shooting guard, came down with sore hip and was scratched. Thibodeau chose Austin Rivers to slide into Bullock’s role and the Hornets sprinted to 10-0 and 19-5 leads.
When Thibodeau turned to Immanuel Quickley and Kevin Knox off the bench, the Knicks rallied, though they ultimately suffered a 21-point defeat. Knox finished with 19 points, hitting 5 of 12 3-pointers.
Bullock is expected to miss Wednesday’s game versus the Nets. Could it finally be Knox’s time to start at small forward alongside ice-cold RJ Barrett?
The Knicks have been brutal from 3-point range (24-for-85, 28 percent) dur ing their three-game losing streak.
With 3-point marksman Alec Burks nursing an ankle sprain, Knox could be an elixir to help heal the outside-shooting slump that has helped dropped the Knicks to 5-6.
Knox started for much of his rookie season in 2018-19, but when Marcus Morris was signed as a free agent in July 2019, Knox went back to the bench — and he stayed there even after Morris was traded last February.
Last season, Knox started just four of 56 games after starting 57 of 75 games as a rookie.
Knox is now shooting a career-best 40 percent from 3-point range and averaging 7.9 points in 21 minutes.
Knox also has history with the other four starters who played on last season’s squad. (Mitchell Robinson is Knox’s best friend on the team).
Rivers has played well with the reserve crew and hadn’t started before. He may have been referring to himself when he said team chemistry is off, even though most of the rotation is returning players.
“Our chemistry is not there yet, we’re still building,’’ said Rivers, who missed all of preseason and the first four games. “That’s why I’m saying be patient because I know it’s only going to get better and better. I haven’t had one practice this entire season. My first time playing with the team was against the Raptors [on Dec. 31]. So I’m still figuring it out.”
It may be wise to continue figuring it out off the pine.
Taj Gibson, last season’s starting center and a Thibodeau favorite, will be available to face the Nets after passing COVID-19 protocols. Though sources say he’s in shape, it’s unclear if he will play without a team practice.
Gibson was signed last week to help with front-court depth and reduce Julius Randle’s heavy minutes. Against the Hornets, an exhausted-looking Randle finally had his first off game, scoring just 11 points and committing four turnovers.
But his statistics through 11 games should not be ignored. Randle joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to record at least 200 points, 115 rebounds and 70 assists in their team’s first 11 games.
Last season, the Knicks and Nets split the four regular-season games.