Last year doesn’t mean anything, and simply being called the New York Knicks doesn’t mean that a badly built team is going to do well. Carmelo Anthony might be beginning what is going to be the worst season of his career, even if his scoring does stabilize at some point. He simply doesn’t have the talent around him to help him ease through his own problems, and he himself isn’t a good enough leader to make them overachieve.
The most important player on the Knicks’ roster is Tyson Chandler, but his injury has exposed even more flaws than before, and the biggest of them is a complete lack of will to fight through adversity, or buckle down and win games through defense instead of their inconsistent shooting.
The 120-89 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, their worst loss in history to them, was a perfect example. They were down 17-35 in the first quarter, and that was it. No aggression, no fight, or anything that resembles a team desperate to pick up a win or at least make an effort to mount a comeback.
True, one loss in the NBA doesn’t mean anything, but when you add up everything we’ve seen from the Knicks this season and even going back to last year’s playoff, this wasn’t just one night of laziness, but a pattern that you wouldn’t expect from a defensive minded head coach like Mike Woodson.
It was embarrassing for us to come here on our home court and lose a game like this. It wasn’t about losing the game, it was just how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today and it showed out there on the court. I’m not worried but we do have to figure it out. Whatever it is we have to figure out quickly, but as far as being worried, I’m not worried about that. But we need to figure it out.
Anthony makes it seem like this is just one-time problem, but that’ far from the truth. It’s the third time the Knicks have lost at home this season, picking up losses against the Timberwolves (by nine points) and the Charlotte Bobcats (by five). The loss against Minnesota wasn’t actually that close. The connecting thread? Defense just not showing up.
The Knicks have given up more than 102 points in three of the last four games. They’re 20th in the league when it comes to defensive efficiency, giving up 1.02 points per possession, and allowing teams to shoot 48.8% from the field against them. If they had an offense good enough to counter that, it would have been acceptable, but the Knicks are 23rd in offensive efficiency and only 21st in the NBA when it comes to effective field goal percentage at 47.7%.
Maybe the return of J.R. Smith will help them become more of the team that resembled last year’s success. However, their issues of defending, rebounding and actually making their offense look like more than just a group of guys looking for one player won’t be resolved with the return of J.R. Smith or Tyson Chandler. These things change through leadership – coming from the head coach and their star players. It’s questionable if the Knicks have enough of that to find the golden path out of this early jam.