By: Randy Cruz (@cruzr83)
The New York Knicks didn't lose their 13th game last season until January 11. We're two days into December and the Knicks have already lost 13 times. It has been a disappointing season thus far, but has the "season is still early" card expired?
We know the Knicks are without their big man Tyson Chandler, have had injuries to Raymond Felton and Metta World Peace -- trade speculations in the mind of Iman Shumpert, minutes limits with Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire, but are those really the reasons why this team, with the second leading scorer in the NBA, is at the bottom of the Atlantic Division at 3-13?
You would think this team would get wins against opponents like the Wizards, Pelicans and Pistons -- but that wasn't the case. All three mentioned improved over the summer, but you can still say to yourself that the Knicks could've and should've won those games. But when there's a really bad funk in the room, you just want to get away from it by any means necessary.
Unfortunately, the Knicks can't get out of their nasty funk -- their "we've lost 9 games in a row, 7 straight at home" funk.
For the record, Carmelo Anthony is doing everything he can to keep this team afloat until Chandler comes back. With averages of 28.5 ppg and 10.1 rpg during their 9 game losing streak, there's only so much the man can do.
What seems to be the major issues during this losing streak -- as well as during this season -- is the inconsistency of the players who aided this team to 54 wins last season.
Who are those players?
Raymond Felton, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert have been mostly inconsistent this season. A flash here and there, but injuries, being in shape and blocking out trade rumors have led to these three not playing their best basketball.
I would also point out that recently, Andrea Bargnani has been playing better basketball than he did at the very start of the season. He's more of a consistent second scorer as the season has gone on. The man had six blocks last night for crying out loud -- SIX!
But the playing time, rotation is another issue. When to take players out, when to put them back in. It's simple to me -- if they're playing good, keep them in. If not, sub them out. Finally, we saw Mike Woodson leave rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr in the game while he was providing a huge scoring lift -- especially hitting three's -- which the Knicks have been lacking all throughout this season. Hardaway, Jr. poured in a much needed 21 points off the bench and it was great to see him get the minutes down the stretch -- and that's how it should be.
Does that mean a player like Hardaway, Jr should get more minutes in games like these? Why not? Regardless of who it is, if he or anyone is performing at a high level, they have to be in the game in order for this team to win.
Another player to look at: Pablo Prigioni. It's amazing to see him come in the game, move the ball around, get the crowd excited, get his players open looks (which we saw last night vs New Orleans) and then boom -- he's subbed out in 10 minutes. Unless he asked to be subbed out or if he's hurt, you have to leave him in there because he brings so much to the table when he's on the floor in limited time.
On a final note, which is alarmingly true, the Knicks don't play the same style of basketball in the fourth quarter as they do in the first and second. Is it because of this losing streak and doing everything to not lose AGAIN? Maybe. But somehow, someway, the fourth quarter has to be where the most urgency lies -- and the quarter that Carmelo takes over. Bargnani fades out in the fourth, Felton is tired in the fourth, the offense isn't ran properly in the fourth and when times get rough, its a three-point free for all when there's still plenty of time on the clock.
Last night was a great indication of most of the flaws the Knicks have -- but also some ways to fix it here and there. Give the guys who are performing the playing time (Hardaway, Jr, Prigioni), who provide three-point shooting, ball movement and overall -- general excitement.
If those are the players that give you the best chemistry with Carmelo and others, then that's the route Mike Woodson has to go with because at 3-13, obviously something isn't working.
Oh, look on the bright side, the Knicks are only 3 games behind first place in the Atlantic Division...