New York Knicks in Crisis: Bobcats, Coaches, and Fading Stars
I’ve been all about patience here. An 11 player trade takes a while to really start to payoff in terms of chemistry. That’s especially the case for guys like Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, who are expected to do very different things as Knicks than as Nuggets. But this is getting too ugly. Saturday night’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats was the lowest point this team has reached all season. Right now, these guys are legitimately playing like the worst team in the NBA.
First, Saturday night. The really good news here for the Knicks is that Carmelo Anthony had another great game. He shot over 50% from the field and wound up with 36 points, 4 rebounds, and a couple blocks. For everyone who has been putting the blame for the Knicks’ woes just on Carmelo Anthony, this just doesn’t make any sense. He’s been putting in more obvious effort than any other player in blue. That may not be what you pick up from reading ESPN or The New York Post, but when you watch the games, this is obvious (with the exception of that loss to Detroit).
The bad news is everything else. The Knicks didn’t play bad defense against the Charlotte Bobcats. They played no defense against the Charlotte Bobcats. In just one quarter, they managed to make power-forward Borris Diaw – a guy who has had a just miserable season – end up looking like an All-Star. Diaw constantly just strolled up to the basket for his 20 points in the game, barely ever getting contested outside of an occasional foul. That’s 20 points in a game for a guy that averages 10. The lack of Knicks’ defense put eight – eight! – Bobcats in double-figures. And this is a team that has been well below .500 all year.
The offense was no better. For all of the deserved praise Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni gets for his offensive sets, this game had no coordination to speak of. From the first minute, the Knicks looked lost, milling around the court with no idea what they were supposed to be doing. It’s getting late for this. I understand the idea of treating these games as scrimmages: the Knicks are going to make the playoffs, what’s most important is that they learn how to make this new team work. But scrimmages shouldn’t even look this bad. As with the defense, on offense it didn’t really even seem like anyone (except Melo and occasionally Toney Douglas and Landry Fields) cared.
Three of the biggest holes for the Knicks right now were on display last night: Chauncey Billups, Amar’e Stoudemire, and the lack of a serviceable center. Ronny Turiaf was out last night with one of his frequent injuries, so Amar’e was forced into playing center against the taller Kwame Brown. Brown – another guy who has been a complete bust – wound up looking great: compare his +15 in the game to Amar’e's -9.
It’s really not clear what is going on with Amar’e. He looks tired, and surprisingly disinterested for a guy who has been an MVP candidate for most of the season. His jump-shot hasn’t been falling like it used to and his defense at times looks worse than it did earlier this season. Against Charlotte, he continued his slump with just 14 points on 4-13 shooting. If there’s one thing about these Knicks that I am finding the most depressing right now, it’s this.
As for Chauncey, this is more and more looking like the wrong system for him. As has been the case the last few games, he heaved up bad shots at bad times, going just 1-6 from three and 6-16 overall. He was again outrun and out-hustled by an entire team. Starting Toney Douglas at shooting-guard for Landry Fields (who wound up with starters’ minutes anyway on his way to 16 points – the most behind Anthony) helped to get some of the defensive pressure off Chauncey but it obviously wasn’t enough. Maybe it’s just that lingering thigh-injury, but I’m sure the Knicks front-office is really reconsidering their approach to Chauncey’s contract, which has a team-option for next year.
And yet again, this game looked winnable for the Knicks by the time the forth quarter came around. And yet again, they blew it to a team that – as Melo said – shouldn’t even be on the same court as them. 114-106. The Knicks are now three games below .500, and have won just one game in their last ten. And once again, I left this game wistfully remembering that time, way back in January, when a different Knicks team beat the San Antonio Spurs.
So what’s the answer? My real problem right now is that the effort seems to be missing. Again, I expected losses to bad teams after the trade with Denver while this team sorted things out. I didn’t necessarily foresee these losses persisting all the way up to April, but I understand that such a big trade takes a while to figure out. I still think that Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have the potential to play great together. We’ve seen the potential come to life on a few occasions, and Carmelo really seems motivated to make it work.
The problem, again, is it’s hard to see that motivation elsewhere. This team looks just down right now. And sure, that makes sense. It must feel like shit to lose this many games – I mean, I feel bad enough watching it as a fan. But at this point, I can’t really figure out the logic to what is happening on the court anymore.
Yes, these past 10 games have really made some inherent weaknesses in this team obvious. And yes, a lot of those weaknesses can hopefully be solved in the off-season (finding a serviceable center, working on building chemistry). But the mentality here right now just seems miserable, with Stoudemire showing that front-and-center. At this point, I have no idea what it would take to put a spark back in this team, but when you compare these Knicks games to, like, any of the NCAA games, you just see that the fire really isn’t here.
And it should be. The playoffs are on the line. For the first time since 2003, the Knicks will be in the NBA playoffs. But if things keep going like this, any team could sweep them in a series – not to mention the Boston Celtics, who the Knicks are currently set to face.
Is it Mike D’Antoni’s fault? A lot of people seem to think so. I think that he’s a proven coach who has been given the seriously rough task of having his roster changed up on him an incredible number of times over the course of three years in New York. But, as with his players, it kind of just looks like he is dithering about right now. He can’t seem to make his offensive system work with Chauncey Billups, and he can’t seem to figure out an alternative.
Does that mean either D’Antoni or Chauncey has to go? I don’t know. I still hope that they can figure this out, and find a way to make this work. They should be able to, they are both as professional as it gets and know more about the game than most guard-coach duos in the league. But if this season ends like this, and the Knicks see their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade end in a sweep, both D’Antoni and Knicks GM Donnie Walsh know what phone call to expect from owner James Dolan. It wouldn’t necessarily be the right move – especially as far as Walsh goes – but it could happen.
So where does this leave New York now? In need of a spark and some good news, they are set to face the Orlando Magic for the second time in a week on Monday. For the first time this season, D’Antoni has scheduled a home shoot-around before the game. Is Monday a must-win? Sure. Is it a likely win? Probably not. But something has to change for these guys fast, because if it doesn’t, what started out as a fantastic season may just end in a wash.
More Faster Sports:
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook