If the recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets wasn’t the final nail in the coffin for the Knicks, this upcoming West Coast trip could really be the death knell.
Losing 121-110 to the lowly Nets (13-55) on Thursday is one thing, but this trip could be even more brutal and embarrassing for the Knicks (27-42), as they’ll face three elite teams in the West: the Los Angeles Clippers (41-29), Utah Jazz (43-27) and San Antonio Spurs (52-16), along with a fourth, the Portland Trail Blazers (31-37), that’s still in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.
The sad thing about the Knicks lately is that they swear they’re not trying to tank — and maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re just this bad. And that revelation can’t sit well with the ardent, loyal and tortured fan base who had high hopes entering this season.
The Knicks got the fans’ playoff hopes ratcheted up last summer when team president Phil Jackson made aggressive moves by picking up Joakim Noah — albeit on a now-regrettable four-year, $72 million deal — and trading for Derrick Rose, who was procured for a pittance: center Robin Lopez, guard Jerian Grant and point guard Jose Calderon.
Noah, who is likely out for the season following knee surgery, never gave the Knicks anything close to its expected production, while Rose, who’s had a decent statistical season (17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists per game on 46 percent from the field), has never really clicked with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis — New York’s poor man’s version of a “Big 3” — and has openly bristled at playing under Jackson’s antiquated triangle offense.
It’s been three years since the Knicks hired Jackson to run (ruin?) their franchise. Since his first full season as president, New York is 76-157. The playoffs are out of the question and the Knicks will endure their fourth consecutive losing season. They’ve enjoyed just three winning seasons in the past 16 years, and once again, all they have to play for is lottery positioning, with hopes they can find the right players in this summer’s draft — and maybe take another crack at adding good free agents.
Instead of positioning for the postseason, the Knicks are left to wonder “what if?” This squad, on paper, seemed destined to finally earn a playoff spot. A 14-10 start, sitting as a top-four team in the Eastern Conference during the first couple months, and a team that played with effort and passion soon dissipated and gave way to internal strife and then lethargy.
Shooting guard Courtney Lee insists that apathy hasn’t completely engulfed the team, noting they’re still “trying to win games," but it’s hard to imagine New York playing hard enough on this upcoming trip against the West’s elite — teams that still have lots to play for and won’t play down to the competition.
Anthony said this might be the most disappointing season during his Knicks tenure considering all the high hopes entering the campaign.
“This year, it’s a little more disappointing due to talent that we have in this locker room on this team,” Anthony lamented. “For some reason we just couldn’t get it together and get it going … So, yeah, it’s more difficult this season than it has been in the past.”
While most of the nation’s basketball community is enthralled and enticed with March Madness, Knicks fans are privy to their usual March sadness.
- The two recent losses to the Nets may have been the most troubling for the Knicks, as the league’s absolute worst team beat their rivals twice in five days. Last Sunday’s loss in Brooklyn featured 18 triples allowed by the Knicks, as the Nets snapped a 16-game home losing streak. Last Thursday’s defeat at the Garden featured 38 points allowed by the Knicks in the third quarter to help the Nets halt a 33-game road losing streak to conference opponents.