For now, at least the Knicks are likeable enough

There are two takeaways from the Knicks’ activity at the trade deadline.

One — and this is not a typo: Leon Rose parted with one of his prized possessions in life, a draft pick (protected) in order to make Josh Hart a Knick. This is a noteworthy thing.

Two: The Knicks are better. Hart isn’t the “missing piece” — that wasn’t going to be available unless the Nets had gone full white-flag and sent Kevin Durant across the river — but he is certainly an upgrade on Cam Reddish, who’d been in witness protection for 33 straight games.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau had sort’ve warned us off expecting blow-away news by the Knicks at the deadline, which was 3 p.m. Thursday.

“We love our team,” Thibodeau said after the Knicks escaped Orlando with a win Tuesday. “We know we have a really good roster that we like. We have a lot of good young players that we know are going to get better as time goes on.”

So Thibodeau likes this team, and you would think likes it even better now that Reddish — who he never wanted on the team in the first place — is not a part of it.

Which leads to a larger question:

Is being likeable enough right now?

We can state the obvious upfront: Nobody in the NBA — fans, coaches, players — is truly happy unless their team wins a championship. That’s understood. That’s why they open the doors. That’s why they charge for tickets. That’s the bottom line. Got it.

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson reacting to news his former Villanova teammate Josh Hart got traded to Knicks.
Jalen Brunson’s reaction to the Knicks acquiring his former Villanova teammate Josh Hart was enjoyable to watch.

But these Knicks were never going to be in that conversation, not yet, not until Rose identifies his alpha and seizes him, puts him on the roster, builds around him. Again, short of Durant, that wasn’t happening now. Maybe this summer. Maybe this time next year.

For now?

Let’s be honest: This can be a frustrating team to watch. But it also a fun one to watch. And it is absolutely, indisputably, likeable. In the past few weeks the Knicks have beaten Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Miami — four of the six teams ahead of them in the East. They play hard. They play together. And it is clear that they like playing together.

Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks greets Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks during the first half when the New York Knicks played the LA Clippers Saturday, February 4, 2023 at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, NY. (For the NY POST Photo/Robert Sabo)
The Knicks genuinely seem to like each other — a sentiment that didn’t seem to fit in the neighboring borough of Brooklyn.
Robert Sabo for NY Post

How much does that matter? You make that call. But Wednesday night, the whole team went to Philly to see Villanova retire Jalen Brunson’s old No. 1. Afterward, someone caught Brunson’s reaction when he was told the Knicks had acquired Hart, his old Wildcats teammate. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor. It’s like a Little Leaguer finding out his best friend will be on the same team.

You know what? For now, I’m good with that. I’m good seeing teammates who like each other, and a star who isn’t shy about being fired up to be playing with an old buddy again. Compared to recent Knicks teams? Compared to the forest fire raging in Brooklyn?

“We have a really, really good group of guys,” Thibodeau said Thursday, talking of the Villanova watch party. “They spend a lot of time together. I think they enjoy being around each other, and they’ve developed a very close bond.”

Evan Fournier #13 of the New York Knicks waits to greet Obi Toppin #1 of the New York Knicks
They may not win a championship this year, but the Knicks are at least a likable bunch.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Someday soon that won’t be enough.

For now? Yeah. I’ll sign up for this.

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