The Knicks have long been accused of lacking fight this season, so leave it to former legend Charles Oakley to show them how it’s done.
Unfortunately, the former fan favorite hasn’t donned the orange and blue since 1998. But with Wednesday night’s altercation – and arrest of Oakley – the Knicks’ season has now hit an all-time low in incompetence, but has reached record highs in circus-like atmosphere and bizarreness.
First-year head coach Jeff Hornacek even admitted that prior to being hired, he knew this season – and franchise – would be something different, and something he’d likely had never experienced in his 20 years of being associated with the NBA.
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The even-keeled Hornacek, who has learned and played under some of the best coaches in NBA history, spoke about all the off-the-court drama that he has dealt with this season, roughly 90 minutes before last night’s tough 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The coach knew there would be off-court issues in New York, and obviously wasn’t oblivious to what he was about to inherit, but even he said it’s been a season for the history books – for all the wrong reasons.
“It [the drama] has lived up to the billing,” he said. “It’s been something all year.”
The Oakley incident was just the most recent drama for a Knicks (22-32) team that is spiraling out of control. They’ve now lost 22 of its last 30 contests, including just two wins at the Garden in its last 12 outings – something that was unforeseen just a month ago, when the team used its comfy confines to its advantage. They’re now 13-14 at home and their precipitous slide now places them 12th in the Eastern Conference. Inexplicably, they’re still only 3.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. But with the latest distractions in a long line of distractions hovering over the franchise like a dark cloud above the Addams Family’s house, it doesn’t look like the tide will turn anytime soon.
Now was the week to try and turn around this season, as they embarked on a five-game home stand. While it was a tough order with teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Clippers, and San Antonio Spurs on the docket, the Knicks expected to at least compete and perhaps steal a win or two. But they’re 0-3 to start with losses to Cavaliers and Clippers and an albatross of a performance against the then-17 win Los Angeles Lakers, Monday night, where they scored 29 first-quarter points and led by as many as 27 points. The frisky Denver Nuggets come to town, tomorrow night, before the Spurs visit on Sunday. Denver (23-29), currently the eighth seed in the immensely talented Western Conference, won’t be a walk-over by any means, as head coach Mike Malone has them playing hard every night.
There’s no other team in the Association that’s as dysfunctional as the Knicks. Not even the nine-win Brooklyn Nets (9-44) make as many awful headlines, as at least first-year head coach and former Knicks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson has them playing hard, being professionals, and not having to deal with management publicly alienating and trying to bully its best player.
Time and again Carmelo Anthony has had to defend himself against team president Phil Jackson’s tweaking and prodding, through cryptic tweets. And time and again, Anthony has chosen to take the high road. Jackson has taken public measures to rattle Anthony, perhaps hoping he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause – something so rare that only one other player in the entire league possesses such a clause, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Hornacek said as bad as this season has gone and as many distractions have arisen, he’s impressed that it hasn’t affected the players’ focus.
“Everything that gets out there, you’re going, ‘OK, whatever.’ Hopefully it's not a distraction for our guys and our focus is on the games and what we need to do at practice … [and] I believe that’s the case,” Hornacek said. “There really isn’t much talk about all this at all. Guys are focused on the game and in practices … and that’s what we’re trying to aim at. We got to get back and win some games.”
Jackson is lucky the Oakley incident has temporarily distracted the fans from the product he’s put on the floor. But, if recent history has shown, it won’t be too long until vitriol from the Garden faithful gets redirected back to the hot mess that’s been the Knicks’ season.