Maybe the Knicks would be better served traveling to New Jersey tonight.
The Knicks enter the Garden contest winners of five straight on the road, but losers of five of seven at home. Asbestos particles haven’t been the only thing dropping at the Garden this month, as the Knicks own the worst home record in the Eastern Conference at 2-5.
“I think we gel a little bit more on the road because it’s more a mentality of us against the world,” said Landry Fields, who has scored 31 points in the last two games. “We need to bring that same mentality to home and kind of use the fans that way and we should be all right.”
The Knicks have rebounded from a rocky start and point up 125 points in their last game against the Pistons. The?Nets, meanwhile, aren’t as lowly as last season, but are giving up the seventh-most points in the league while scoring the second-fewest (92.9).
“We’re going to bring that same momentum and energy to our home,” Fields said. “The fans are very passionate and you want to please them as best you could but it’s not about that. It’s about us as a team and going out and performing.”
Fields said he’ll be amped to face the Nets at home because of the road trip carryover. And he’s also excited that the proximity of the two teams may ratchet up the intensity.
“We want to treat this like a playoff game because we’re playing so well,” he said, adding that the team’s grit has really shown through lately. “It gives us great confidence knowing that key guys have been out and we could still lean on each other. It [the adversity] has been good for us.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni said while he’s pleased with how the team has turned around from its early season malaise, there’s still work to do. He said he realizes how important this game is but not because of the reasons people want to think. D’Antoni said the Knicks-Nets rivalry isn’t so because of each team’s aggressive marketing campaigns or because both teams were after the same free agents but rather because it’s a division game between two franchises on the upswing.
D’Antoni said he pays no attention to the marketing and billboard wars between the two franchises and is only focusing on his own team improving. The Nets [6-11] just happen to be in the way.
“That’s between the organizations, not really the teams,” D’Antoni said of the back-and-forth marketing wars. “I don’t think you have a rivalry until you get to the playoffs. Otherwise you’re just trying to get there. You’re not worried about anybody else. You’re just trying to win enough games to get in. Now, obviously if you’re in the conference finals and it’s the two hometown teams fighting then you have a big rivalry. But we’re a ways away from that yet.”
The Knicks are certainly a ways away from conference supremacy but D’Antoni is confident they’re back on the right track. He especially pointed out how well his two main stars, Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, have gotten accustomed to the new system.
“I think we’ve adjusted to a couple of things that especially helped Amar’e and Raymond and they started getting more comfortable with one another and within themselves,” D’Antoni said.
The Knicks’ marketing team, via a Madison Square Garden Network commercial, has been trying to add fuel to the rivalry. Its most recent spot, a direct jab at the Nets and their desire to move to Brooklyn -- “You can walk like us, talk like us, but you’ll never be us!” – was marketing genius and a great lure but D’Antoni wouldn’t bite.
“I’m sure they’re trying to get a good team and so are we,” he said with a smile. “It’ll be fun. It’s a big game for us.”