Another winless week for the Knicks brought their losing streak to nine straight and their record to a demoralizing 3-13. The streak is their longest since the 2005-2006 season, a year in which the Knicks won just 29 games, fired coach Larry Brown in the offseason and replaced him with then-general manager/comical supervillian Isiah Thomas.
The week started as the Knicks finished their first west coast trip of the season with losses to the Clippers (93-80) and Nuggets (97-95). They then returned home to face New Orleans on Sunday night to disappoint their fans in person, losing to a Pelicans team that was forced to play much of the game without their burgeoning star Anthony Davis, who was injured in the first quarter.
There's no doubt that the Knicks are struggling. If they don't win on Thursday night, it will have been four weeks without a victory and it already seems a lot longer ago than that since it leaked out that James Dolan thought they were capable of winning a championship. But maybe—just maybe—the Knicks are about to turn things around.
What Went Right This Week The Optimist's Take: The Knicks fought hard all week, trailing by just four early in the fourth quarter against the Clippers, fighting back from a ten point fourth quarter deficit at high altitude to come one missed jumper from sending the game in Denver into overtime and falling short by just four against New Orleans.
There are plenty of other reasons to think the Knicks can right the ship. Carmelo Anthony's averaging 9.9 rebounds a game, showing he's willing to do the dirty work in Tyson Chandler's absence. Then of course there's Chandler's absence, which kills the Knicks defensively (they're the league's 28th best defense). Andrea Bargnani, who even the most optimistic fan can see is still an abominable pick-and-roll defender, has done solid enough work defending on the ball (even blocking six shots against the Pelicans).
Chandler's injury came before Bargnani got settled, but now that he's sinking mid-range jumpers like it's his job (which is great, because it's a huge part of his job) the Knicks might have a really nice frontcourt with Bargnani spreading the floor and Chandler covering up for him on defense. The Knicks' offense looks much better with Raymond Felton out there and he's back from injury. JR Smith is sure to get better, he's just in a slump. Tim Hardaway, who scored 21 points against the Pelicans, has shot the ball very well as a rookie (40% from three), even if he does get carried away sometimes. Ron Artest isn't finished, he's just pacing himself.
That's all not to mention that the Knicks have played a very difficult schedule so far, playing seven of their sixteen games against western conference opponents (the west is far better than the east this year) and zero games against teams in their division, which is easily the worst in basketball. And even if the Knicks are 3-13, they've lost five games by five points or less, plus another in overtime, and have been the victim of two very dubious calls at the end of tight games (the no continuation call when Melo made what could have been a game winner against Houston and the elbow touch foul on Shump on a Paul George three in the closing seconds against Indiana). A couple of breaks and the Knicks are close to .500 and everyone's talking about how they are doing a good job of holding on until Tyson Chandler returns from his injury, which could be any day now.
Oh, and the fighting amongst themselves? That's just frustration. That's not fighting. Mike Woodson would never bench Iman Shumpert for the entire fourth quarter against New Orleans just because he yelled at Carmelo Anthony for a blown defensive sequence. That was just a coincidence.
The Knicks might be 3-13 and tied for the worst record in the NBA, but despite all the losing they are just three games out of first place in the Atlantic and a guaranteed trip to the playoffs. Everything will be fine.
What Went Wrong This Week The Pessimist's Take: Carmelo Anthony is a greedy ballhog and no amount of rebounding will make up for it. He proved it this week when he went iso in the closing seconds against his old team and, with the Knicks down two, took a turnaround jump shot at the buzzer that got blocked by a player four inches shorter than he is.
Bargnani's awful help defense is really what caused the fight between Shump and Melo and even if he is shooting over 46% from the field, he's making just 33% from three, not good enough to draw defenders away from the basket and definitely not enough to balance out all the blown rotations on the other end. No one knows when Chandler's coming back because the Knicks haven't said anything about it and even if they did, they always lie about these things. The Knicks might be better with Raymond Felton than without, but they're much better with Pablo Prigioni playing big minutes and Mike Woodson doesn't seem to know that.
JR Smith's 33% shooting from the field and 11.7 point a game average isn't an aberration, it's the new normal. He lied about his knee being injured, got paid and smoked so much weed he forgot how to do simple things like dribble (but not tweet). Now that Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony teamed up to shatter Iman Shumpert's confidence and enthusiasm, the Knicks are going to trade him for five cents on the dollar and then turn their attention to destroying Tim Hardaway Jr. Ron Artest is finished and thinks syrup can coach basketball.
All the losing close games doesn't mean the Knicks are better than their record, it means they are losers. This season is over and even the 5-12 Nets are starting to pull away. The Knicks won't make the playoffs. Even better, they traded their first round pick, in what many are calling the best draft ever, for Carmelo Anthony, which means that there won't be any silver lining to this big fat storm cloud of a season.
And the fighting is real, genuine fighting among guys who don't like each other as the Knicks come apart at the seams.
Up Next: The schedule starts to balance itself out as the Knicks take on four straight opponents who are below .500 and have a combined record of 24-48. Fortunately or unfortunately, they start that stretch by staying local, traveling to Brooklyn Thursday for a game that brings a whole new meaning to the term "collision course." One way or another, in a week it'll be a lot more clear whether the Knicks are as bad as their record says they are.