At 22-19, the Knicks have reached the halfway point of the season on pace for a winning season and a playoff berth.
Cling to that bit of good news because it is the only positive thing to say about the Knicks right this minute. They kicked off their three-game Southwestern swing with another miserable performance, losing to the Rockets 104-89 and dropping their fourth straight game.
The script was a familiar one. A stagnant offense failing to produce points, defenders standing flat-footed as opponents blew past them for easy hoops and downright lazy rebounders watching Houston players turn misses into baskets.
It would be lovely if we could blame the whole night on distractions caused by the news that the Nets are now out of the running for Carmelo Anthony. That puts a lot of focus on the Knicks and naturally forces some on the team to confront the possibility that they'll be traded, but that dog just ain't gonna hunt when it comes to explaining away the loss.
The problems are exactly the same as they were when the Nets were supposed to be on the verge of landing in Newark. Wilson Chandler has been piling up bricks for some time, which makes you wonder just when the dream house he's building will be completed so he can go back to being a productive basketball player. Raymond Felton is either exhausted, hurt or he made some kind of deal with a genie that wore off at the start of the new year.
In general, the Rockets defense made the Knicks work for every point and, outside of Amar'e Stoudemire, that eventually made the Knicks quit trying very hard to get points. Stoudemire got his 25, though it came with a slew of turnovers and he remains totally apathetic about grabbing the occasional rebound, but no one else was able to provide any kind of support.
You can be sure that Anthony's ability to do just that will come up quite often in the next few days. You can also be sure that calls for his arrival will grow louder and louder every time Chandler, Felton and Danilo Gallinari have abysmal shooting games that push the Knicks closer and closer to being back under .500. With games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday, that could come uncomfortably soon for a team that needs to figure out how to relight the spark that's gone out of their game.