While the NBA season is technically well past the midway mark, the All-Star weekend is customarily considered the median, which means now is the time for the Knicks (23-34) to make that march up the Eastern Conference rung.
The league’s trade deadline is today at 3 p.m., and the Knicks are one of the many teams actively looking to improve its roster. Unfortunately for them, they have very few valuable trade assets.
Carmelo Anthony, who is dealing with public shaming and bullying from his boss, team president Phil Jackson, has that coveted no-trade clause, which means he’ll only part ways if he sees fit – and judging by his public proclamations that is unlikely to happen. Point guard Derrick Rose’s name has been bandied about in recent days, as his expiring $21 million deal is attractive to multiple teams. And there’s always the Knicks’ desire to find a way to get from under Joakim Noah’s $72 million deal. But it’s highly unlikely that any of the team’s stars see different locales – especially forward Kristaps Porzingis, who is virtually untouchable.
There may be a minor tweak here or there, such as moving center Kyle O’Quinn, whose stock has risen in recent weeks due to his stellar play in absence of Noah. But for the most part, it’s highly likely that New York stands pat. There are 25 games remaining for the Knicks, who are currently 12th in the conference. But the bright side is that of those remaining games, 14 are against teams below .500. The overall win-loss percentage of the Knicks’ remaining opponents is .472, the lowest percentage of the six teams jockeying for the eighth and final playoff seed – including two more games against the lowly Brooklyn Nets (9-47). The downside, though, is that the Knicks play 13 of those remaining games on the road, where they are a putrid 9-19.
There are five teams with losing records that currently reside above New York -- Chicago (28-29), Detroit (27-30), Milwaukee (25-30), Miami (25-32), and Charlotte (24-32) – with a couple more also-rans, Philadelphia (21-35) and Orlando (21-37), within 2 ½ games of them.
Following Tuesday’s practice, head coach Jeff Hornacek noted that despite the up-and-down season and the swirling distractions, the primary goal is to still make the postseason and take their chances in the first round. He reasoned the team needs to refocus and play its best ball of the season down this stretch.
“You always put it out there [the goal of making the playoffs], but the second half you’re just trying to play your best basketball, and see what happens,” Hornacek said.
The coach even went as far as saying he “expects” the team to look the same after 3 p.m., tomorrow.
Rose, whose name has been linked to a three-team trade involving the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Detroit Pistons, hasn’t allowed the banter to change his stoic nature one way or the other. He reasoned he’ll play hard for whichever team employs him. But as long as he’s still a Knick, he said he likes their chances of snatching the eighth seed and will always remain optimistic, as he reasoned he has experience in playing for a team on the playoff bubble.
“We know that we got a lot of games to play,” Rose said, recalling a time in Chicago when the Bulls had to scratch and claw into the postseason. “I think one of the years in Chicago, it took to game actually 82 to make it to the playoffs. So we know we have a shot.”
- Noah tweaked his hamstring during a practice before the All-Star break and will miss the Cavs game. Hornacek said Willy Hernangomez will start.
- Rose elaborated on why the trade chatter hasn’t really affected him: “You just got to be a professional about it. Whatever it is, I’ll be prepared. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the front office. I don’t have a problem with the coaching staff, I don’t have a problem with my teammates … I love it here, but it’s a business.”
- The Bucks, currently in ninth place, have the toughest remaining schedule in terms of winning percentage, with 27 games against teams at a combined .507 win percentage. The next toughest schedule belongs to the Miami Heat, currently 10th in the East, who have remaining opponents that carry a .502 percentage. The seventh-placed Bulls have 25 games against opponents who have played .495 ball so far. The Charlotte Hornets are 11th and have 26 games against teams with a .486 mark. And the eighth-seeded Pistons have remaining opponents with a .476 win percentage.