There was a tangible feeling of dissatisfaction among the coaches and players in the Knicks locker room at Madison Square Garden on Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King Day, after they sustained their third straight loss in falling to Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns by 129-121.
The reactions were a positive sign that poor play and negative results are intolerable and unacceptable.
“We came out again not fired up and focused,” said head coach Mike D’Antoni. “I just think we had a little bit of a mental letdown and it is regrettable. We’ll be back. This definitely should be a wakeup call.
“You get to a point,” continued D’Antoni, “(when) you get back home in the comforts of Madison Square Garden and we think we’re really good and we’re not. We’re a team that played hard to get what we got and now we’re playing soft to get back to where we should be.
“It’ll change. These guys are good guys and they’ll understand the mistakes they make and will rectify them.”
The Knicks’ challenging four-day, three game road trip started on a down note on Wednesday with a 103-89 loss to the Houston Rockets.
They were nine games behind the Atlantic Division leading Boston Celtics and sixth overall in the Eastern Conference. Their lead over the seventh seed, the 17-23 Philadelphia 76ers, was five games.
Those numbers reflect the Knicks being in a good place. If their primary players, most notably Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler, do not sustain long-term injuries, it is a high probability the Knicks will remain at minimum the sixth seed in the conference and return to the post-season for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
But change may soon come. In recent days it has become evident that Carmelo Anthony’s sole intention is to play for the Knicks. And Knicks president Donnie Walsh is attempting to acquire first round draft picks to package in a trade with the Denver Nuggets to make Anthony’s wish come to fruition.
Yet for the moment, the Knicks are facing the strong possibility of enduring a period of losing more games than they win. In addition to the Rockets, they will meet up with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder on their current road trip, two of the best teams in the NBA.