Dennis Smith Jr. (275463)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

On Monday in Cleveland, the Knicks set a dubious franchise record, losing their 17th straight game, a 107-104 defeat to the Cavaliers. They haven’t experienced the joy or the sheer relief of winning since beating the Lakers in Los Angeles Jan. 4. The last time the Knicks gave their fans a victory at Madison Square Garden was Dec. 1.

“It’s incredibly hard,” said the team’s recently acquired point guard guard Dennis Smith Jr. after their loss to the Cavaliers. “No one wants to lose, especially 17 in a row.” Smith, who the Knicks obtained two weeks ago in the deal that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, has only been a part of a few of the losses. But he’ll see a lot more in their 25 remaining games.

The Knicks were an NBA worst 10-46 before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers at MSG last night (Wednesday) and will face the Atlanta Hawks on the road tonight in their final game before the league’s annual All-Star Game break. Prior to the start of this season, with the likelihood of Porzingis missing most if not all of the campaign as he recovered from a torn ACL sustained last February, no reasonable follower of the team, including the most optimistic of Knicks fans, should have expected them to achieve more than the 29 wins they had a season ago.

It was a rebuilding year in every sense of the word, from a revamped front office to a new head coach in David Fizdale, essentially year one of the cleanup from the unsuccessful Phil Jackson era. But even perpetual pessimists foresaw a slightly better outcome as far as their win shares. Now the Knicks’ focus is on next year and beyond, most prominently signing franchise-altering free agents this summer and developing some of the young talent currently on their roster.

In the meantime, Fizdale maintains the Knicks are bloodied but unbowed. “We understand what this year is. We’re not gonna—whatever happens to us this year will not make us crack or waver,” he said following the Knicks’ 104-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors at the Garden last Saturday.

“Were just going to keep choppin’ and keep going after it. I got really high character people in that locker room that are rooting for each other and working hard for each other. So I don’t see any of this cracking our spirit.”

At this point, hope is all the Knicks have to hold on to in the midst of one of the franchise’s worst seasons ever.