The Knicks have improved drastically under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, winning 18 of their first 35 games after needing 60 games to reach that victory total last season.
Take it from a member of their 21-45 squad in 2019-20, a player who was on the wrong end of Sunday’s 109-90 pasting in Detroit.
“It starts with the work,” Pistons guard Wayne Ellington said when asked about the Knicks after the game. “Those guys, I was in New York last year, and I was talking to Julius [Randle] before the game, and he was like, ‘Man, it’s completely different, it’s night and day.’
“Just our approach, our mindset coming in, how Thibs has those guys working and how he has them competing on the floor. It’s a process. They have a lot of the same guys that they did have last year. Those young guys have taken a step forward and they’re learning how to play and how to win. And it’s showing.”
Ellington, who has played for nine teams over 12 NBA seasons, appeared in 36 games (one start) under coaches David Fizdale and Mike Miller with the Knicks last season.
The 33-year-old shooting guard also praised his former team’s defense Sunday night, saying the Pistons “didn’t move the ball” enough and didn’t “kick it out” for 3-point attempts.
“That’s part of their defense that Thibs preaches, he wants to take away the paint,” Ellington said. “They’re a paint-heavy team. We got into the paint a couple of times, and we got some shots blocked instead of kicking it out.”
The Knicks recorded seven blocked shots, including three by Nerlens Noel, in the win. Following Tuesday’s game in San Antonio, the Knicks will face the conference-worst Pistons again Thursday at the Garden ahead of this weekend’s All-Star break.