As fingers are pointed in every which direction (Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, etc.) for the Knicks' opening night blowout loss, it's important to also recognize the importance of Lance Thomas.
Over the last season and a half, Thomas has served as a rare bright spot for this team. Rising up from the ashes as a basketball vagabond, Thomas wasted little time finding his NBA role with the Knicks. It'll be imperative to their success, especially as the team competes for a playoff spot, that he continues to serve as their glue guy.
The epitome of a player with endless hustle, effort, knowledge, and a good attitude, Thomas is able to help set the tone defensively. That's always been his bread and butter when it comes to sticking in the NBA. He applies pressure, dives for loose balls, and does all of the little things. As the Knicks began giving him more opportunities to shine, he was depended upon more heavily. As such, more polished skills on offense were needed. Thomas answered the call by strengthening his long range shooting last summer, subsequently shooting 40% from deep last season.
This season, the Knicks will need even more of the same. After spending big to improve the starting five, New York was still able to grant Thomas the proper payday he deserved. Beyond he and Brandon Jennings, however, there are still question marks surrounding the bench.
Thomas cannot allow the pressure to get to him. What's more, he and the Knicks cannot allow his recent struggles on offense to impact the way he plays on the other end of the floor. As opening night proved, New York needs all the help they can get.
In six games (5 preseason and 1 regular season), the forward is shooting just 31% from the field and 18% from deep. He's forcing it, presumedly because the Knicks do need that added offense. It'd be nice to see Thomas let his defensive intensity propel the rest of his game. In the meantime, he could benefit tremendously from better chemistry with the team's new floor generals.
As the Knicks look to incorporate Rose, Noah, and Lee into the offense more substantially, Thomas should focus on getting back to basics.