As their schedule gets tougher, the Knicks face the pressure of winning

JAIME C. HARRIS | 11/21/2019, 1:31 p.m.
It’s been almost two weeks since Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held a stunning and impromptu ...

It’s been almost two weeks since Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held a stunning and impromptu press conference immediately following the team’s embarrassingly listless 108-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks were 2-8 and looking every bit like a team headed for the worst record in the NBA by the season’s conclusion, a distinction they held at the end of last season when they finished 17-65.

At that Nov. 10 presser, Mills and Perry said the team would not be judged solely on wins and losses, but also by the manner in which they are performing. “I think the lack of consistency,” in effort Perry noted as one of the components in which the Knicks had not met him and Mills’ expectations.

“For the most part we’ve seen it but you see sporadic efforts too,” continued Perry. “That’s what we talked about as we sat during this game… We gotta be consistent in all areas of the game starting with effort.” On Monday, the Knicks gained redemption by dominating the Cavaliers from the opening tip, winning by 123-107 and displaying the level of intensity that should have been satisfactory to Mills and Perry.

“We got off to a good start,” said Knicks forward Julius Randle, who scored 30 points in spearheading the victory. “I think the start was everything. We started out 4 of 14 last week and never got going.”

Randle and his teammates went into their game against the 76ers in Philadelphia last night (Wednesday) 4-10, bunched up near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with five other teams that were either 4-9, 4-10 or 3-8 (Washington Wizards). The Knicks’ schedule, which had been favorable in their first 14 games, began to get much more difficult beginning in Philadelphia.

Prior to facing the 76ers, they had only played against two opponents with records above .500––two games versus the Boston Celtics and two with the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics and Mavericks were 11-2 and 8-5 respectively before last night’s outcomes. Over their next eight games, the Knicks will meet six teams that are currently above .500 before embarking on a six-day, four-game Western road trip from Dec. 10 through 15.

The only two opponents the Knicks will play that are below .500 before heading west are the San Antonio Spurs this Saturday at the Garden and the Brooklyn Nets less than 24 hours later at MSG.

With such an arduous slate of games ahead, it may not be long before the Knicks’ record and not their effort may be the prevailing determinant in significant changes to the team and perhaps organization being carried out by owner James Dolan.

On Tuesday, head coach David Fizdale maintained Dolan has been supportive in the midst of infrequent victories for the Knicks.

“Every game, every game. Jim Dolan comes in and gives me a vote of confidence, a pat on my back and really has just been incredibly encouraging over the last year and a half or whatever it’s been.” How long that lasts is likely tenuous.