The Derrick Rose AWOL wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the Knicks this week. Rose made a lot of tabloid headlines after missing a game and worrying everyone. Then, the continually enigmatic Rose capped off a crazy 24 hours of self imposed misery with the I might quit basketball sympathy routine. He quickly pivoted to I want a max deal come summer, as if nothing unusual had just happened. The paradox of his low- no reason to play anymore- juxtaposed against his high- pay me people- was purely Manhattan drama. But it was the kind of drama that you get through by playing the game and putting all of the extra junk or what Pat Riley used to fondly call “your peripheral opponent” in some dark and airless room. The purpose at hand is winning games and desperately trying to stop this slide. And in Philly things were looking pretty damned good. Rose was reminding everyone why they threw a conniption fit when he went MIA. He was the Rose the Knicks need. Carmelo was equally as potent, enough so they had a 17 point lead playing a team with the third worst record in the NBA.
But. This is the Knicks. Just when you think a corner has been turned you find out a corner has been swallowed by a tsunami and the earth is suddenly on fire. What is this team?
Bad. Pathetic. Stepping on your heart with concrete boots. Carmelo doing squat in the 4th quarter in Philly and then watching helplessly as a late buzzer beater jumper by T.J. McConnell swished through the net. Is there an end to this suffering?
Probably not. The Knicks had a three point lead with 34 seconds left and lost the game. This is who they are. Airball by Porzingis and a race down the court in defensive disarray and a 76ers game winner by an unlikely source.
The Knicks have lost 12 out of their last 15 games. They lose when they give up 127 points. They lose when they give up 103 points. They lose when they score 122 points and they lose when they score 116 points. They lose at New Orleans and they lose at Indiana. They lose to the West (Suns, Warriors, Nuggets, Rockets, Pelicans). They lose to the East (Celtics, Hawks, Magic, Bucks, Pacers, 76ers). They lose to the worst teams in the league and they lose to playoff teams. This is a merry go round going in circles and the blame is everywhere.
Offense. Defense. Derrick Rose ruining chemistry. Carmelo ruining chemistry. Porzingis in a slump. Pathetic Defense. Sad offense. Bad coaching. Three point shooting on hiatus. The Knicks missed 18 threes in Philly.
And yet. The Knicks are just five games under .500. Clearly, they are not out of it by any measure but the confidence, particularly after T.J. McConnell hit a game winner to steal victory from them and continue the Knicks on this road to nowhere, is rock bottom. Just for context, T.J. McConnell would only be on the floor at the end of the game for the 76ers. Every other team would have him on the bench watching. So a sub basically drove a knife through the Knicks heart. What heart is left?
Do the Knicks have heart?
Yes. But it wavers depending on the situation. The situation on Wednesday was a 7 point lead with two minutes left. The thing is if the Knicks were a bunch of kids like the Lakers, Magic, Wolves, Suns you would get it. Most of those teams losses are in the last few minutes. Without a closer or experience they sputter. But the Knicks, on purpose, are veterans. Wasn’t that the Phil Jackson summer strategy? Bring in players who know what to do, who have proven something?
No one wants to remember Kurt Rambis or Derek Fisher but there weren’t any worse in the coaching department than Jeff Hornacek. These are the dog days of Knick basketball.
Carmelo has seen it go downhill quickly and said as much after the game in Philly. Courtney Lee said they have to change their mentality. From what? Is it their mentality they have to change or their heart? Or their toughness? Or their roster? At best you are talking about a 7th seed. At worst you are talking about a lottery team.
So far, in 2017, it is the worst. It is ugly bordering on hideous. And a disaster.
photo via llananba