Derrick Rose went missing Monday night, which embodied the current fight in the Knicks.
Following a demoralizing 110-96 home defeat to the downtrodden New Orleans Pelicans (15-24), the Knicks (17-21) have found themselves in a real free-fall, losing eight of their last 10 games, including four-straight at the Garden.
Monday night’s circus began with Rose going AWOL, which preceded both Carmelo Anthony and Kyle O’Quinn being ejected in the third quarter, and ended with many predictable non-answers from quizzical teammates who also felt blindsided by their point guard’s defection.
According to center Joakim Noah, a friend and Rose confidant dating back to their days with the Chicago Bulls, he would only say that he heard from his buddy and that “everything is OK.” Rose was at the Knicks’ facility for Tuesday’s practice and was seen speaking with general manager Steve Mills prior to taking the court for practice. He seemed in good spirits, only saying that his motive for going back home to Chicago unannounced was for “family reasons.”
The Rose drama, however, is just the most recent dilemma for a team that’s already at a crossroad, despite the season not even being at the halfway mark. Their once surprising start (14-10 and a No. 3 seed on Dec. 11) has given way to a dramatic plummet, as they’re now 11th in the Eastern Conference, and have lost 11 of their last 14 outings since mid-December. Following three-straight lottery seasons for the Knicks, this was supposed to be a playoff season – especially after team president Phil Jackson had a very active offseason, highlighted by his trading for Rose. Assets-wise, it was a low-risk, high-reward move by Jackson as it only cost him center Robin Lopez, point guard Jose Calderon, and guard Jerian Grant. The move was universally hailed in New York at that moment, but now everything has unraveled. Rose, who is making $21.3 million in the final year of his contract, went temporarily missing, Jackson has yet to publicly speak on the matter, and the Knicks are losing – a lot.
Monday night just underlined all of the Knicks’ ills, with nary a remedy – unless checking out of a game is considered a start. Anthony decided to hit the showers when he was assessed two technical fouls by the usually mild-mannered head referee Danny Crawford. The Knicks were trailing 82-63 at that time when Anthony had some choice words while heading to the bench during a Pelicans’ timeout. Two minutes later, O'Quinn joined him in the locker room after he was assessed a flagrant-two foul for his hard accosting of New Orleans star center Anthony Davis, with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter. O'Quinn slapped down hard on Davis' right arm as he was driving to the basket, sending the Pelicans star flying into the stands. It might not have been an intentionally hard foul by O’Quinn, but it just showed how quickly things are unraveling in New York.
The frustration is mounting, and the actions by Anthony and O’Quinn – as well as the recent effort by the Knicks – is showing that just maybe this team does not have what it takes to be a contender. Add in the Rose situation, and now the Knicks are beginning to look like they’re in full meltdown mode.
They’ll play 12 more games this month, including seven in the next 10 days, which could either make or break their season. Wednesday night’s tilt in Philadelphia could provide the start to an elixir. But if the Knicks can’t take care of business against one of the league’s dregs – with or without Rose -- then nothing may save them.
- Rose has reportedly had strained relations with Jeff Hornacek, as the first-year coach benched him for the entire fourth quarter in the two games leading up to his no-show on Monday night. But Hornacek gave a curt, “No,” when asked if he believed the benching contributed to Rose’s vanishing act.
- Rose, 28, has averaged 17.3 points per game on 44-percent shooting and has a PER rating of 15.76. His PER rating places him 25thamong all point guards. In contrast, during his 2011 MVP season when he became the youngest player (22) to ever win the award, he was ninth overall in PER at 23.5. LeBron James was tops that season at 27.3. And this season, Russell Westbrook is No. 1 at 30.4. Rose has had a dramatic fall.
- If or when the Knicks discipline Rose, they’ll be shorthanded at point guard – and they can’t even poach from their D-League affiliate in Westchester for quick aid. Point guard Chasson Randle has left the Westchester Knicks and signed a 10-day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. Knicks’ fans had been clamoring for the squad to call up the scoring guard for months, ever since he broke out as a favorite during the Orlando Summer League. He turned heads during his 19 appearances in Westchester as he averaged 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.6 3-point field goals made in 32.0 minutes per game. His shooting line was .422/.402/.825 (field goals, 3s, and free throw percentages).