The Knicks finally earned their first post-All Star break win, and ended their seven-game skid, but they still remain far behind the pack for the eighth and final playoff seed.
Judging by the inactivity at the trade deadline, team president Phil Jackson must think they have just enough to eke into the playoff bracket – or more truthfully, the Knicks didn’t have much value to trade, as they currently sit in the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Standing pat also means Carmelo Anthony will need to carry the load almost single-handedly for the remaining 25 games – starting tonight against the Toronto Raptors (36-18), at the Garden. The All-Star forward, who has battled knee soreness most of the season, guaranteed he’ll be available for the remainder of the season.
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Other than having an all-time scorer on his roster, whatever mojo Jackson can cook up in his teepee will be needed, considering the franchise has sagged so much over the past month. The Knicks (24-33) went from a team teetering around the .500 mark, to losing 11 of 12 games and getting themselves out of the playoff race, to seeing head coach Derek Fisher getting fired. The lack of movement around the trade deadline means this batch is all-in – for better or worse.
“We didn’t make any moves, for whatever reason,” Anthony said following a recent practice. “I really don’t know what we could have done. That said, we need to believe in this group – [and] I’ve got to believe in this group even more.”
This group consists of stellar rookie Kristaps Porzingis who’s seemingly hit a wall in recent weeks, a slightly above-average sidekick in shooting guard Arron Afflalo, a center in Robin Lopez who sometimes dominates in the post, but mainly disappears, a high-energy, yet inconsistent bench, and a point guard in Jose Calderon who no team wanted at the deadline – including perhaps his own.
The key to the remaining games, though, is and always will be Anthony. His sometimes balky knee shows just how important his role is to the franchise, as the Knicks have displayed they can’t win without him (0-7 record with him on the bench in a custom suit). The mission to go on a great run down the stretch may seem impossible to many, but should he choose to accept, Anthony will definitely earn the moniker of a franchise player.
His Saturday night performance in Minnesota was a great start, as he tallied 30 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. He’s seemingly taken to interim coach Kurt Rambis’s tweak to the Triangle offense, as he’s been utilized more as a point-forward. Rambis, who played with the ultimate point forward in Magic Johnson, during his 1980s Showtime hey day, has often allowed Anthony to run the offense. The veteran has flourished in that role, averaging a career-high in assists (4.2).
Surely, Anthony’s 21.6 points and eight rebounds per game are just as valuable to the team, but the fact he’s been open to being a distributor and trying to get others involved will be a big factor in determining the team’s fate down the stretch. The inconsistent Lopez benefited the most in the Knicks’ recent game when he notched 26 points, including 16 in the first quarter.
They’ll need to keep that going this week, as every opponent they face (home for Toronto, at Indiana on Wednesday, home for Orlando on Friday, and home for Miami on Sunday) is looking down on them in the Eastern Conference standings.
-The Knicks signed Jimmer Fredette to a 10-day contract. Fredette, a former first-round pick, was a D-League star for the Knicks’ Westchester affiliate and averaging 21.8 points per game.
-Sunday was the fifth anniversary of the Anthony trade.
-Prior to giving Rambis his first win as a Knicks coach, the last time New York had won a game was Jan. 29, versus Phoenix.
-Rambis last won a game as a head coach on March 11, 2011 versus Utah, with Minnesota.