Time and circumstances are against the Knicks. Thus far, their 2016-17 season has been one of several incarnations, devolving from promising to struggling to sinking. The Knicks haven’t been at .500 since falling to 16-16 after losing to the New Orleans Pelicans on the road. Their tailspin, beginning with a Christmas Day loss to the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden, has been irreversible as their odds of making the playoffs decreases with each debilitating setback.
Going into last night’s game against the Nets in Brooklyn, the Knicks were 21-29 and 5-16 since Dec. 25, seemingly devoid of solutions as to how they can trend in the opposite direction. By and large, effort, desire and team chemistry hasn’t been the primary issues as to why the Knicks were sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference and only two games in the loss column ahead of the 19-31 Orlando Magic, who were 14th in the East. The only team as of yesterday in the conference with a worse record than the Magic was the 9-39 Nets.
The Knicks have played with want-to and purpose, yet those characteristics have yielded very little in the form of tangible results. There is no more irrefutable evidence than their 142-139 disheartening loss to the Atlanta Hawks this past Sunday on the road. The marathon game went into four overtimes.
Two Knicks, Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee, logged more than 50 minutes, playing 53 and 52, respectively. Jennings started for the injured Derrick Rose, who was out with a sprained right ankle. Rose also sat out the Knicks’ 117-101 loss to the Washington Wizards on the road Tuesday. Carmelo Anthony played 46 minutes against the Hawks, scoring a season-high 45 points. Four Knicks fouled out—Anthony, Joakim Noah, Kyle O’ Quinn and Kristaps Porzingis. Additionally, Jennings and Lee ended the game with five fouls each.
Despite the defeat, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek praised his team’s labor. “These guys have fought all year,” he said. “Things haven’t gone our way but they never give up.”
The loss was a microcosm of the Knicks’ season as they have been on the wrong end of numerous close games. Their only takeaway was mental and physical fatigue, which accompanied them to Washington two nights later as they were shorthanded again with Porzingis joining Rose out of the lineup with an illness. The Knicks, exhibiting tired legs, shot an awful 34-93 (36.6 percent) from the field. Perhaps playing their next five games at the Garden, where they are 13-11, beginning this Saturday (8:30 p.m.) against the Cleveland Cavaliers, will aid the Knicks’ recovery.
As the losses mount, rumors intensify regarding the Knicks making multiple roster moves as the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline approaches, especially conjecture pertaining to Anthony’s future with the franchise. But Anthony, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, has tried to remain focused on helping the Knicks execute a dramatic turnaround with 31 games remaining on their regular season schedule after last night.
Anthony has played exceedingly well on the offensive end of the court over the past two weeks and on occasion spectacularly in the face of constant trade speculation. Roughly seven hours before he scored 26 points on 10-17 shooting against the Wizards, the 32-year-old Anthony, who was averaging 23.1 points per game before taking on the Nets, posted this cryptic missive on Twitter: “Running away from things you find unpleasant causes suffering. But facing and challenging such situation will enrich your life.”
Good advice for a team that is indeed suffering an arduous season.