It’s a good thing New Yorkers have the NFC Champion Giants to keep them distracted, because when it comes to the Knicks, these are dark times. Completely erasing the goodwill reserved by Tuesday night’s blowout victory in Charlotte (see, I knew that abberration didn’t warrant my typical effort), Mike D’Antoni’s club reverted to form against the lowly Cavaliers last night, and there seems to be no end in sight to the Knicks’ bottomless abyss. Losers of seven of their last eight, the ‘Bockers (7-11) don’t appear likely to turn things around anytime soon, either, especially with the Heat looming in Miami tomorrow night.
Just one game removed from tantalizing the fans with a free-flowing offense that featured crisp ball movement, proper spacing and (gasp) shot making, New York’s execution – and more disturbingly, their effort – was putrid against the Cavs (7-10). On-court calamities aside, of far greater concern right now has to be the mental and physical state of one Carmelo Anthony. “Carmummy” is definitely playing hurt – that’s plain to see by the full body cast he’s playing with – but last night the small forward displayed a level of unprofessionalism that was practically “Staburian.”
It started at the 8:18-mark of the third quarter, right in the middle of a nearly four-minute Knick scoring-drought. With New York trailing 52-51, ‘Melo streaked down-court off a Cleveland miss. Iman Shumpert was trying to push the ball up the floor, and for just a split second could have hit Anthony for a layup, but the rookie either never saw him or was unwilling to risk a turnover. Shockingly, instead of finishing the play, ‘Melo threw his arms up in disgust and turned his back on the action. Shumpert, who had by then driven into the lane, tried to set up an open Anthony in the corner, but the flat-footed #7 had not yet recovered from his hissy fit, and the ball sailed out of bounds. It was just one of 23 turnovers on the night for the Knicks, but at least symbolically, that was the most critical one (later in the game ‘Melo acually passed out of a double-team, but the ball went comically through Stoudemire’s legs). New York would later tie the score twice, but that was the moment at which they lost the game, as evidenced by the players’ bad body language the rest of the way.
It’s one thing for Carmelo to play hurt. It’s quite another for him to play without respect for his teammates, the organization and the fans. I have seen enough of his career to believe him to be a fiery competitor, and there are very few players in the history of the game that have possessed his raw scoring ability, but last night’s effort and behavior was completely unacceptable. Sure, ’Melo is outwardly frustrated over the team’s and his own struggles (and that’s okay, you want him to care), but between injuries hampering his ability to play to the level he is capable of (he is shooting 34-freaking-% over his last ten games!), rumors of off-court distractions, and the team’s continuing malaise, something needs to be done.
Not that it will happen, but ‘Melo should sit out the next two games against Miami and Houston. Seriously, what good can come of him playing? Yes, we all know how jacked up he gets to square off against Lebron, but an injured Anthony, however “motivated,” hurts more than he helps. Instead, D’Antoni should mandate five full days of rest – of the physical and mental variety – for his star player and wipe the slate clean in advance of next Tuesday’s game against the Pistons.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- “D-Fence!” On the bright side, the Knicks held their opponent to under 100 points for the 12th time in 18 games this season. That said, league scoring is way down in this lockout-affected season, so this probably isn’t as impressive as it sounds.
- The team’s pre-game dance-ritual went off without a hitch. Nothing will ever be as funny as seeing Harvard’s Jeremy Lin shoulder-to-shoulder with Billy Walker in a rhythmic circle.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- There is no leadership on this basketball team, and if you don’t believe there is something terribly afoul with the Knicks’ interpersonal-dynamics, then you’re not watching – and you’re certainly not listening – closely enough. ”[W]e have to figure out how to play with one another and what it’s going to take to win games,” said a visibly dejected Tyson Chandler after the loss. ”We’re inconsistent with everything we do. To be an elite team in this league, we have to be consistent every night and we lack that right now.” Elite?! Heck, mediocre would be a step in the right direction at this point. And D’Antoni, who for the first time this season looked absolutely shell-shocked, was even more blunt. ”[W]e have some things that have to be solved.” Just for giggles, go back and re-read those quotes, only this time, substitute “STAT & ‘Melo” for the word(s) “we.” Startling, isn’t it?
- If Amar’e Stoudemire thinks that lowering his shoulder and barreling to the rim are going to get him added to the U.S. Olympic Team roster, he’s sorely mistaken. Stoudemire led New York with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but he also committed six turnovers and converted on just 1-of-7 from outside of the paint. Whether due to his off-season rehab or those new goggles, the Knick power forward simply cannot buy a bucket from mid-range.
- Once again the Knicks were dreadul from 3-point range. They shot a mind-numbing 3-for-20 from beyond the arc, and it’s only natural to ask why Steve Novak isn’t getting any burn in the absence of Josh Harrellson, who had surgery on his broken right wrist yesterday and isn’t expected back for at least six weeks.
- Man, Toney Douglas, do you make it hard to watch a Knicks game. On the same day when the Knicks picked up his contract option, TD played just 25 minutes, and even that felt like far too many. It’s becoming more and more difficult to craft an argument in the non-PG’s favor nowadays, and I’m beginning to wonder not so much if the light will come on, but whether there’s actually anyone home.
- O Baron, where art thou? Despite some reports suggesting that Knick-savior Baron Davis might return to action against his former team, the PG was glued to the bench in street clothes. At this point, the expectations of Davis lie somewhere between an NBA Championship and keeping the franchise from imploding. Both sound like a challenging task.
- Chandler was called for a technical foul in the fourth quarter after grazing Sideshow Bob’s face while fighting for a rebound. ”That shouldn’t have been a technical foul,” Tyson said. “He was on my back on every play and free throw. Hopefully the league looks at it and sees what really happened.” He now has four technical fouls already, one shy of the Knick-leading Stoudemire.
- Up next for the Knicks: they travel to Miami to face the Heat (Wednesday @ 7:00 pm, TNT)
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Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images