The Knicks are coming off a depressing 120-112 defeat to the lowly Nets (12-53), Sunday night, so now might be as good a time as any to utter an infamous phrase from a man who once played for both franchises.
Michael Ray Richardson’s famous “the ship be sinking quote” was uttered way back in 1982, but sadly for the Knicks and its ardent and tortured fanbase, it still holds true today.
Just a week ago, the Knicks (26-41) actually held out hope of making the playoffs as an eighth seed. But its recent stretch of futility has shown them otherwise. New York has now lost three straight and five of its last six outings, including defeats to the likes of the historically-bad Nets, the putrid Philadelphia 76ers (24-42), the Milwaukee Bucks (32-33), who are now in that eighth and final playoff spot, and the very team they were once chasing for the final seed, the Detroit Pistons (33-33), who now sit seventh. Those are four losses that shouldn’t have happened for a team that was so staunch in noting they weren’t tanking for better Lottery position, but certainly looked like a squad that had ping-pong balls dancing in their heads.
The team is as disjointed as ever before – and that’s saying a lot, considering all the drama and tribulations throughout the season.
It appears that for the fourth-straight season, there will be no playoffs for a team with such preseason aspirations. And this campaign has been such a heavy burden on players that cracks in the foundation are finally starting to appear from the unlikeliest of sources. Carmelo Anthony has every right to be angry and dismayed with this franchise, considering he has a boss in team president Phil Jackson who publicly bullies him and is trying to run him out of town. Anthony, though, has taken the high road throughout – much to his credit.
But when someone like Kristaps Porzingis starts to openly question the way of the Knicks, then alarms should be sounding. Porzingis is one of the most likeable players in the league. He’s charming, always smiling, a bit goofy, charitable, and always great with the fans – the same fans who raucously booed him on draft night, yet he also smiled through that. But there was Porzingis following Sunday’s mess in Brooklyn beginning to show signs of frustration.
The Latvian sensation, who tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and four assists, opined aloud that “teamwork” isn’t necessarily there on offense. He also reasoned that the recent struggles are likely due to the constant changes in schemes on both sides of the ball, as it’s led to confusion “from top to bottom” in the organization.
“There is a lot of stuff that’s not clear [and] it’s hard to play like that,” Porzingis said.
What Porzingis is alluding to is the way the team has flip-flopped most of the season on philosophies. They began the year wanting to use a blend of first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek’s uptempo three-guard attack and Jackson’s old Triangle offense. The union showed promise early on when the Knicks jumped out to a 14-10 record by mid-December. But once the bottom began to fall out around Christmas time, the Knicks scrapped the multi-plan offense and tried to solely use Jackson’s antiquated offense – to the public dismay of Anthony and Rose. The results were catastrophic. Heading into the All-Star break, the Knicks then tried to use more pick-and-roll, featuring Porzingis, to moderate success. But immediately following the break, Hornacek, likely at the behest of Jackson, re-shifted the offense to almost exclusively use the Triangle again – and Porzingis doesn’t get it.
“It [the offense] is random, and guys don’t know the Triangle well,” said Porzingis of a team that’s lost seven of its last 10 games. “We’re really basic in what we do. A lot of times it’s myself, Carmelo, Derrick, or Courtney [Lee] trying to make something happen [one-on-one], and that’s not how it’s supposed to be … We’re always switching things up [thinking], ‘maybe this will work, or maybe that will work.’”
Nothing is working these days for the Knicks. And it’s looking as if it’s even starting to take a toll on the glass-half full Porzingis.
– New York is now a season-high 15 games under .500 and seven games out of the eighth spot, with 15 games remaining.
– If there is a bright side for all the Knicks’ woes is that this recent skid has placed them in sole possession of the seventh-worst record in the league. They are now just a half-game better than the Sacramento Kings and two games better than the Orlando Magic and 76ers.
– In addition to the changing philosophies on offense, the Knicks’ defensive schemes have undergone a couple of facelifts. Former interim head coach and current associate head coach Kurt Rambis was retained to be the team’s defensive coordinator two weeks into the season in an attempt to improve communication – particularly the way the team handles opponents in the pick-and-roll. But his lessons have fallen on deaf ears, as New York currently ranks 25th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.