The $104 million Knicks’ question isn’t Jalen Brunson’s impact at point guard. He’ll be just fine.
Whether the Knicks are racing back toward relevance or face another season of despair rests on their two familiar faces — Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. The duo led the Knicks to a 41-31 record in 2020-21. The season hinges on them — not Brunson.
Training camp begins Monday as the Knicks embark on the 50th anniversary season of their last championship in 1973.
Knicks president Leon Rose also can pray Derrick Rose, who turns 34 on Oct. 4, turns back the clock again.
In a taped in-house network interview, Leon Rose said the 2011 MVP tapered down to his “rookie playing weight’’ and purposely struts around the Tarrytown facility shirt-less.
Barrett, Randle and Derrick Rose will hold press conferences Monday for the first time since the 2021-22 season ended. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau likely will not air his first thoughts since the April 10 season finale until after Tuesday’s first practice.
The Knicks are calling Monday “Content Day’’ instead of “Media Day,’’ perhaps related to owner James Dolan’s renewed war on “media.’’
It’s unclear what has infuriated the 67-year-old Dolan unless he’s just getting crustier in his old age and fancies himself a rebel banning press from press conferences.RJ Barrett and Julius RandleCharles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Instead, this new anti-media policy just makes the franchise look afraid. Leon Rose has shunned the media for more than a year.
The NBA understands the Knicks play by rules no other North American sports team follows. For now, commissioner Adam Silver, investigating the Knicks on alleged Brunson tampering, is powerless to act on the cable magnate who has guided the Knicks through the worst section of the championship drought.
Rose was all Pollyana during the MSG Network chat, even when addressing failed Donovan Mitchell trade talks that they desperately wanted to get done.
Rose offered a host of the Knicks’ young players — including Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley — but wouldn’t sacrifice the three or four unprotected first-round picks Utah requested.
“We went through that process there,’’ Rose said. “Ultimately, we made that decision to stay put and we’re thrilled with where we are. Even taking a look at this summer, we feel great about where we are.’’
Knicks brass only will feel great if Randle is his pandemic 2020-21 version. And they only will feel justified if fan favorite Barrett takes a leap with his 3-point shooting percentage, defense, playmaking and free-throw shooting. Yeah, it’s a lot.
Randle just got done with a two-week training session with his Dallas guru, Tyler Relph. Rose said Randle is in “phenomenal shape and in a great space.’’
“He’s really excited getting started,’’ Rose said. “Did he have some rough patches last year? We all learn from them. He’s ready to go.‘’
Indications are Randle is ready to accept the fans’ fickleness that ruined his head last season. The Knicks were open to trading Randle to create a pathway for Toppin, the 2020 lottery pick.Derrick RoseCorey Sipkin
Can Randle summon the 3-point shooting touch, leadership and unselfishness that marked his 2020-21 campaign, held in mostly empty gyms?
“That was a surprise year, even to the Knicks’’ one NBA GM said. “There was a Thibodeau effect that had him overachieve to a career season. When Thibs took the job, I never anticipated him and Randle being a good pairing because Thibs would resent Randle not really defending. But he played with bluster and a tough-guy persona.’’
Randle also shot 41.1 percent from 3-point range. In his other full seasons, Randle never bested 34.4 percent. Five times, No. 30 shot 30 percent or less from 3.
“You look at his career, that season two years ago was a clear outlier,’’ the GM said. “What happened this past year was more his career norms and why the Lakers moved him and New Orleans didn’t make an attempt to resign him [in 2019].’’
With Mitchell traded to Cleveland, the Knicks have to rely on the nucleus of Brunson-Randle-Barrett unless Rose pulls off a monster trade he’s shown no inclination of doing.
Devin Booker, Rose’s former client who works for the in-shambles Suns, or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Oklahoma City, should become major targets one day.
If Barrett and Randle emerge as winning players, the Knicks could compete for a top-six playoff spot this season and look like the lovable 2020-21 version.
Rose’s ability to execute a Mitchell-type future trade might be impossible unless Barrett and Randle vastly improve. That’s how crucial the tandem become in 2022-23.
Nevertheless, the Knicks may be forever stuck with that trio as Barrett-Randle-Brunson will combine to make $76 million in 2023-24.
After covering the Knicks for 23 straight seasons that featured 227 Knicks players and 14 head coaches, this is the last shot and last call. I’ll be evolving away from The Post and heading to the palm trees of paradise.
After 50 years of parade-less seasons, let’s hope the Knicks can reach paradise, too.