It was all good just a year ago.
Last season, by the time the calendar turned to March, at 18-17,
the New York Knicks had spent a better part of the season
meandering around the .500 mark. They were far from world-beaters,
but caught fire late and managed to reel of an impressive stretch
that saw them end the season at 41-31.
Improbably, they’d risen to fourth in the Eastern
This year, they haven’t exactly looked like a club ready to
launch a takeover. Far from it, in fact.
While DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball signed with the Chicago
Bulls, and Kyle Lowry and Russell Westbrook changed addresses last
summer, the Knicks instead opted for Kemba Walker and Evan
Fournier. Neither have helped the team’s cause.
And with Sunday’s 125-109 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at
Madison Square Garden, the team fell to 11 games below the .500
mark — bad news considering the club will now embark on its longest
road trip of the season.
Starting Wednesday — the second anniversary of Leon Rose being
named team president — the Knicks will play seven consecutive games
away from the comfy confines of Madison Square Garden. They won’t
be the home team again until March 16, when they host the Portland
Realistically speaking, in order for the Knicks to make a run to
the eighth seed, they’ll probably have to go 15-6 over their final
Even with the Brooklyn Nets’ loss to the Toronto Raptors on
Monday night, New York will have to make up six games in the loss
column. The Charlotte Hornets, who currently hold the 10th seed,
have three fewer losses than New York. That’s a more manageable
deficit to make up, but considering what lies ahead, it won’t be
For New York, 12 of the remaining 21 games are on the road, and
5 of the 9 home contests are against the Bulls, Nets, Raptors, Utah
Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers. There aren’t many "gimmes" in that
In fact, according to Tankathon.com, the Knicks have the
fifth-toughest schedule remaining, with only the Milwaukee Bucks,
Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Bulls having tougher
Conversely, the Nets’ schedule ranks as the 19th-most difficult
(or 11th-easiest). Unlike the Knicks, though, things are looking up
for Brooklyn. It would appear that Kyrie Irving could soon be
permitted to play at Barclays Center (although not a guarantee), while Kevin
Durant and Ben Simmons figure to return to the
floor within the next few weeks.
Unless something crazy happens, assuming the Knicks don’t pull
off the improbable, after two years on the job, the challenge for
Leon Rose will be to admit mistakes and learn some lessons. Ditto
for Tom Thibodeau.
Walker was not the answer at point guard, and upgrading that
position has to be the team’s No. 1 priority moving forward.
RJ Barrett probably deserves more repetitions.
Julius Randle probably doesn’t.
Truth be told, no player should be considered untouchable if the
likes of Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard or Donovan Mitchell happened
to find themselves on the market — because as currently
constituted, the Knicks simply can’t compete with the conference’s
playoff contenders, much less its upper-echelon. They need to be
honest about that truth and confront it.
New York is nowhere near the likes of a Sixers team that has one
player who won MVP and another who might win it this season, and it
showed on Sunday.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers might even have a theory.
Rivers coached the Boston Celtics to a 66-16 record in Kevin
Garnett and Ray Allen’s first season there and won the 2008 NBA
Finals. That team had it.
His Los Angeles Clippers teams that couldn’t get over the hump?
Not so much.
After his Sixers beat the Knicks on the front end of their
home-and-home series on Sunday, when asked what changed for the
Knicks since last season, that was the first thing Rivers brought
“When you make changes, sometimes that goes well for you and
sometimes it doesn’t,’’ the coach said to the New York
“Chemistry is a very fickle thing, as we all know. When you have
it, you want it. Sometimes you don’t even know why you have it, but
you know you want to try to protect it. And when you lose it, you
don’t know why you’re losing it sometimes.”
In other words: Doc can’t help but to look at this year’s Knicks
and wonder what happened.
At 11 games below .500 and with the odds of qualifying for the
postseason seeming quite remote, in that regard, he certainly isn’t