The month of February couldn’t have gone worse for the Knicks. And after getting blown out by the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, March isn’t off to a good start either.
The look of disappointment on Carmelo Anthony’s face most nights says it all. It is one thing to lose to the NBA’s elite teams, yet February featured losses to the bottom-dwelling Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic. Having lost 11 of the 13 games played last month – and going winless in their last 6 games overall – the Knicks can now essentially kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
Mathematically, the Knicks are still alive – as they’re currently six games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the East with 22 games left to play. But it’s hard to imagine them putting a winning streak together given the current state of affairs.
Firing head coach Mike Woodson won’t serve as some sort of magical cure-all, though it becomes more surprising every day that he still has his job. The Knicks’ last three games have resulted in losses by a combined 68 points and Sunday’s game against the Bulls was out of reach before either team could even break a sweat. Maybe the Knicks haven’t quit entirely on Woodson, but the defensive effort of late makes you wonder if things might be different under a new coach.
The signings of guard Shannon Brown and forward Earl Clark to 10-day contracts last week was the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Neither player is capable of turning things around much. At this point in the season, Brown and Clark would’ve signed with a contending team if their contributions were considered worthy enough.
As the Knicks continue to lose ground in the playoff race on a daily basis, they likely would’ve been better off had they opted to sign players from the NBA Development League instead. This team is sorely in need of young talent and lacks the draft picks to change that in the near future. D-League players certainly have their flaws, but you never know when the next Jeremy Lin will burst onto the scene.
Raymond Felton, whose play at times often resembles that of a D-League player, had about as awful of a month as you possibly can. As if averaging a mere 8.5 points per game in February on just 37.4-percent shooting wasn’t bad enough, Felton was arrested last Tuesday for criminal possession of a weapon when he pointed a loaded gun at his wife – after she filed for divorce from him just a week prior.
Naturally, Felton’s arrest occurred on the heels of the Knicks buying out the contract of point guard Beno Udrih – who Woodson appeared to have no use for despite his starting point guard experiencing the worst year of his career.
The Knicks lost Iman Shumpert for five games in February due to a sprained left MCL, though he hasn’t had much of a positive impact on the team this season. Shumpert is one of the Knicks’ few good defenders, but he’s been dreadful on offense. Hitting less than 38-percent of his shots from the field, only the newly acquired Brown and Clark have a worse shooting percentage on the roster than Shumpert. Last month alone, Shumpert shot an impossibly low 31.3-percent.
Shumpert’s untimely injury on the eve of the trade deadline also did the team no favors as he was rumored to be involved in a number of possible deals.
Luckily for the Knicks, the schedule eases up a bit over the coming week. Beginning Monday with a road game in Detroit against the Pistons, the Knicks will play four games in the next six days against teams who as of now are not playoff-bound. However, they all still own a better record than the Knicks and three of the contests will take place away from home.
While it might be asking a lot of them, the Knicks will probably have to win three of their games this week if they want to have any chance of sneaking back into the playoff race.
Monday’s game against the Pistons and Saturday’s matchup with the Cavaliers in Cleveland are especially important as the two teams are just ahead of the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings. Wednesday’s road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves could prove difficult, but a Friday night home game against the Utah Jazz should be rather easy.
Then again, nothing with the Knicks is ever as easy as it should be.
If the Knicks are going to get back on track and make March their month, dramatic improvements must be made on both ends of the floor – most notably on defense. Should the Knicks allow 106 points per game in March, as they did in February, it is just going to make their April that much shorter.