Through the first couple weeks of the 2022-23 NBA campaign, the New York Knicks have certainly surprised the masses with their incredibly strong start.
Currently, in the midst of a three-game winning streak, the ball club sports a record of 3-1 throughout four games, with their lone loss coming in a road tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies on opening night that took an extra five minutes of overtime to ultimately seal the contest’s fate.
And while the vast majority of New York’s faithful followers are absolutely enthralled and overjoyed by the team’s tremendous successes early on, arguably their most polarizing fan seems to be a bit more reserved when it comes to expressing his excitement.
In an October 27 episode of ESPN’s First Take, host and “life-long” Knicks fan Stephen A. Smith discussed with co-host Molly Qerim and guest Jay Williams his feelings on the team’s hot start, stating that, while he’s happy with how things are currently playing out, he’s not ready to fully embrace the hype.
“All I want to do is caution everybody,” Smith said. “Their three victories are against the Detroit Pistons, the Orlando Magic, and a Charlotte Hornets team without [Miles] Bridges and without LaMelo Ball. And that game last night took overtime to beat [them]… Let’s pump the breaks a little bit and be cautiously optimistic.”
Currently, the combined record for each of the three teams the Knicks have beaten thus far this season is 3-11, while both the Pistons and Magic are viewed as ball clubs that will be looking to lose as many games as possible this season to secure a higher draft position come the 2023 NBA Draft.
Nonetheless, New York has advanced past the teams they theoretically should beat so far this season, while their only loss came in an admirable effort against the tantalizing Grizzlies who are coming off of a 2021-22 campaign where they finished with the second-best record in the association and are led by budding superstar Ja Morant.
With this reality, Smith admitted he was happy with their record to this point.
Smith Praises Play of Knicks Guard
While Stephen A. Smith publicly admitted that he’s not yet ready to fully praise the Knicks as a whole, during the episode he couldn’t help but show love for the team’s top-billed free agent acquisition Jalen Brunson for his play during his first four games with New York.
“I want to give major props to Leon Rose and [William Wesley] and everybody else for Jalen Brunson,” Smith said. “I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing from Jalen Brunson… It’s a real point guard on the floor when Derrick Rose is not on there… He’s doing an exceptional job thus far. I’m very, very happy.”
Throughout his four games played with the organization, Brunson finds himself posting impressive per-game averages of 20.0 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and a steal on 51.7% shooting from the floor and 41.2% shooting from deep.
Most recently, in the team’s overtime victory over the Hornets, the point guard put forth his best game as a member of the Knicks, finishing the night with 27 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block on 66.7% shooting from the floor and 40% shooting from deep.
Thus far into his tenure, Brunson boasts the highest box plus-minus and offensive plus-minus rating of New York’s starters at 5.0 and 3.9, respectively.
Knicks Big ‘Hungry’ After Signing Extension
This past offseason, big man Mitchell Robinson inked a four-year, $60 million extension to remain with the Knicks through 2026.
And though there are certainly examples of players losing their drive to perform at their best after attaining a lucrative payday, the 24-year-old recently made it clear that this is not the case with him.
During a post-practice press conference on October 25, Robinson made it clear that he’s still ‘hungry’ to prove his worth on the floor after receiving his “little bag.”
“Most people yell out ‘when you get paid you don’t want to work no more.’ But that’s the opposite of me,” Robinson said. “Even though I done got me a little bag or whatever, I’m still gonna work, even harder now because I want another… I’m hungry.”
As things currently stand, Robinson is the 16th highest-paid center in the league and is showing the world why he was worth his new price tag, as he’s boasting impressive per-game averages of 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks while leading the NBA in field goal percentage at 88.2%.