One Potential Key to Knicks’ Season: Friendship

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Researchers who study social networks in workplaces have found that having friends at work can make employees more productive and successful, not to mention happier. Friends can hold one another accountable in ways that acquaintances can’t, and a friend can help a new employee understand the workplace more quickly.

So it was when Donte DiVincenzo signed with the N.B.A.’s New York Knicks in July. He didn’t need to figure out on his own how to get to know Julius Randle, one of the team’s leaders, or how to decode Coach Tom Thibodeau’s idiosyncrasies. He had a pair of tour guides already there: his college teammates Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson.

“You’re kind of just thrown right into the fire of them making jokes and them talking about things that you weren’t up to speed with,” DiVincenzo said while preparing for a recent game at Madison Square Garden. “It’s almost like you skip that introduction phase.”

The Knicks have exceeded expectations this season. Even after losing Randle to a shoulder injury, they finished the regular season in second place in the Eastern Conference and begin their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. Some basketball pundits think this could be the year they reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000, when Brunson’s father, Rick, was a Knicks bench player.

At the center of the Knicks’ success are Brunson, Hart and DiVincenzo — buddies since their teenage years who excel on the court together. It is a testament to their basketball skill, but those who research the workplace say it shows that when employees have friends among their peers at work, the whole organization can benefit.

“There are some truths about joining a company and feeling more connected because of the people that you’re with day in and day out,” said Jon Clifton, the chief executive of Gallup, who has studied workplaces.

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