After a promising 14-10 start to the season, the New York Knicks have once again become one of the NBA’s biggest sideshows.
Losers of 11 of their last 13 games, now at 18-24 on the season, the Knicks are beginning to fall apart at the seams.
Even after Derrick Rose’s strange, unexcused absence from a game last week, with a report indicating he briefly considered leaving basketball, the biggest story has been the dissolving relationship between Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson.
After a Sunday loss to the Toronto Raptors, Anthony was asked about a column written by Charley Rosen, a former Jackson assistant and confidant, for the website Fanrag that claimed Anthony had “outlived his usefulness” for the Knicks.
Anthony shot back at the column, saying that if Phil Jackson doesn’t want him in New York, “that’s a conversation we should have.” According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Anthony was twice told that Rosen wrote the words, not Jackson, but Anthony seemed to suggest Jackson was behind it.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that Anthony met with Jackson to discuss his future with the Knicks. While Isola and Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Anthony reiterated his desire to stay in New York, Shelburne reported that the conversation was more “contentious” than previous conversations. Wojnarowski, reported Anthony was “calm” and “business-like.”
Regardless of Anthony’s demeanour or desire to leave the Knicks (Anthony’s contract has a no-trade clause, meaning he would have to approve any potential trade), this has been mounting for months. Jackson didn’t help his optics with Anthony when he criticised LeBron James and referred to his business partners as his “posse” (James and Anthony are close friends). Weeks later, Jackson then publicly jabbed Anthony’s game, saying he holds the ball too long and doesn’t pass enough, which seemed to rankle Anthony.
Now, the situation appears to be coming to a head. Meanwhile, not helping matters is that the rest of the team appears to be falling apart.
As the losses continue to pile up, a divide between head coach Jeff Hornacek and the players appears to be growing. Last week, Hornacek openly wondered if the Knicks didn’t have the personnel to be a good defensive team, a sentiment with which center Joakim Noah disagreed.
On Monday, before a last-second loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Hornacek made a change to the starting lineup, removing shooting guard Courtney Lee (whom the Knicks signed to a $50 million deal over the offseason) for undrafted rookie guard Ron Baker. Lee later posted two pictures of “Dumb and Dumber” characters to Instagram, though he later deleted the posts and said he simply used the pictures to describe his feelings toward the Knicks’ recent woes.
Additionally, after the game, backup point guard Brandon Jennings expressed frustration with the rotation, saying, “Every day is something new. You got to be ready [because] you never know when you’re going to play. When you come in, you really don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s kind of no consistency. It’s tough.”
After the loss, Hornacek said the team is looking at all fixes for the team, which could include benching Joakim Noah to play Kristaps Porzingis (who’s been out with a sore Achilles) at center. According to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, Noah, whose media sessions have been “terse and combative” this season, ended his media session before he could be asked about a potential benching.
Where the Knicks go from here is unclear. Jackson can’t ship Anthony out of town unless he agrees to a trade. Of course, Anthony is far from the only problem facing the Knicks — his contract just remains the biggest obstacle in a badly needed rebuild.
Jackson’s decision to sign Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal also looks questionable, particularly given the 31-year-old center’s injury history and lack of cohesion with the current roster. While Rose has looked athletically explosive for the Knicks and added a needed dimension to their offence, his play also hasn’t been conducive to wins. Rose’s performance thus far calls to question the Knicks’ decision to trade a serviceable center on a fair contract in Robin Lopez and a young point guard in Jerian Grant for him. The Knicks will need to evaluate Rose’s fit with the team before long, as he’ll be a free agent, meaning the Knicks will be faced with re-signing him or releasing his cap hold to pursue free-agent point guards this summer.
This Knicks roster is the latest in a long line of attempted quick fixes (some of which predate Jackson’s tenure). The Knicks remain one semi-lengthy winning streak away from getting back into the playoff picture and putting some of these issues to rest. However, in the meantime, fissures appear to have opened and they will need to be addressed sometime soon.
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