No where to go but up for the struggling New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony is still scoring but the losses are starting to stack up during Phil Jackson’s front-office debut in New York, writes Paul Oberjuerge.
New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, centre, tries to split Washington Wizards defenders during a loss on Christmas Day. Jeff Zelevansky / AFP
New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, centre, tries to split Washington Wizards defenders during a loss on Christmas Day. Jeff Zelevansky / AFP

Before the season, the new president of the New York Knicks said the club had enough talent to make the NBA play-offs.

Two months later, it is not clear the Knicks have enough talent to win 20 games.

Read more: LA Lakers could miss out on NBA play-offs with an ageing Kobe Bryant on the court

The Knicks fell to 5-27 after an overtime loss in Sacramento on Saturday, the worst 32-game record in club history. The Knicks have lost eight consecutive home games, another club record.

“I feel what the fans are feeling,” star forward Carmelo Anthony said after the Knicks’ most recent loss in Madison Square Garden. “The fans are dying, we’re dying. We’re out there, we’re not producing. We didn’t expect, I didn’t expect, to be sitting at 5-26.” Or 5-27.

The Knicks missed the play-offs by one game last season and, with Phil Jackson – twice a champion as a player with the Knicks, 11 times a champion as coach of Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers – taking over as president, New York fans could be excused for expecting better results. Even with rookie coach Derek Fisher, a Jackson protege, as coach.

The core of this team looks like it should be better than it is.

Anthony is averaging 24.5 points per game, not far off his career norm, Amar’e Stoudemire has been useful, when he has not been resting his knees, Jose Calderon, the Spanish point guard, has a history of competence and Samuel Dalembert is a useful centre.

But the Knicks have been hurt by injuries, which might be viewed as bad luck or bad planning, given that several of their players have a history of being hurt, led by the fragile Stoudemire. Calderon, repeatedly hurt while with Toronto, has missed 13 games, shooting guard JR Smith 11, point guard Iman Shumpert eight.

The Knicks score a little, at 95.1 points per game, as they adjust to the complicated “triangle” offence preferred by Jackson and Fisher.

But they rank near the bottom of the league in points allowed and they bottom out in a couple of “hustle” statistics: they are worst in the league in defending the three-point shot and second-last in rebounds.

Some are calling for change, beginning with a trade of Anthony for draft picks or young players.

The Knicks, however, have never embraced the concept of a lost season. The idea seems to be that New York fans will not pay top dollar for a bottom-of-the-barrel team, nor put up with the season or two they would require to build from scratch.

The Knicks also continue to be delusional, collectively, always plotting to land this or that out-of-contract star when the franchise has little appeal to free agents who see it as a hopeless situation for a team whose fans quickly turn impatient as they wait for a first championship since 1973.

Jackson, 69, has a five-year, US$60 million (Dh220.4m) contract, so he is unlikely to be cut loose and he likely will stand behind Fisher, who some have decried as not fiery enough.

Jackson tweeted that Santa would bring the Knicks “a better 2015 than 14”.

He said: “The effort and skill of our team will grow as the players learn how to play with and for each other.”

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 28, 2014 04:00 AM

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