Sports

Knicks fans were skeptical, and then Derrick Rose became their third-most important player

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose
Photo: Getty Images

When the New York Knicks added Derrick Rose from the Detroit Pistons about three months ago, the overwhelming concern was whether or not he’d interfere with Immanuel Quickley’s growth.

But the reason the transaction — in which the Knicks sent away a future second-round pick along with Dennis Smith Jr. — has worked is because it’s been Elfrid Payton, and not Quickley, whose minutes have dropped most significantly due to Rose’s addition.

Prior to the trade, Payton had averaged 28.5 minutes per game, averaging 11.9 points and 3.7 assists on 43/24/70 shooting splits. Since Rose’s first appearance as a Knick (this season) on February 9, Payton’s minutes have dropped to 21.6 minutes per contest, but he’s been more efficient, averaging 10.5 points and 3.1 assists on 46/36/69 splits. Unlike Payton, Quickley didn’t drop seven minutes per contest since Rose’s arrival. The rookie guard logged 19 minutes per game in his 21 pre-Rose appearances this season, posting 12.0 points and 2.7 assists per game on 41/36/93 splits. Since the trade, Quickley’s been at 19.8 minutes per game, recording 11.4 points and 1.8 assists per game on 39/41/87 shooting.

Not only did the Knicks recently piece together their most remarkable winning streak while also winning 12 of their last 13, but they’ve also gone 21-8 since reuniting Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Chicago native had been fine toiling away with the Detroit Pistons, posting 14.2 points and 4.2 assists per game on 43 / 33 / 84 splits. But since returning to the Knicks for the first time since the 2016-17 season, Rose has averaged 14.3 points and 4.1 assists, nearly the exact same counting stats, but is doing so in games that matter and on 48 / 40 / 86 splits. During the current 12-1 stretch the Knicks are on, Rose has elevated to 17.4 points and 4.2 assists on 54 / 39 / 91 splits. Prior to last night’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Rose had a +13.2 net rating per 100 possessions while a Knick.

Rose went from a why to a please. A reason for skepticism on a team that didn’t quite present an obvious fit for him into a, “Please play him at the end of games and not Payton.” And today, his play on the court makes him one of the best moves made by any team all season. (They should probably re-sign him this summer, too.)

And the Knicks are still in the midst of their allegedly vaunted road trip, in which they’ve started 2-0, and have four games remaining (including at the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and Clippers). Following that, they’ll end the season against the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, and Boston Celtics, all at Madison Square Garden. This is the stretch that’s supposed to provide the grandest test for them ahead of the playoffs, but if they could navigate this positively, they’ll not only be back in the playoffs for the first time in eight years, they’ll also have home-court advantage in round one of the playoffs.

New York City is probably jumping the gun on loosening COVID restrictions considering the amount of ongoing cases and lack of complete vaccinations yet administered, but alas, it will mean having fans at Madison Square Garden — whatever the capacity — will aid the Orange and Blue in some form. With seven games to go, the 37-28 Knicks are currently the four-seed; 1.5 games above the Atlanta Hawks, 2 ahead of the Miami Heat, and 3 ahead of the Celtics.

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