Lost Weekend for the Knicks

Two more losses to losing teams for Mike D'Antoni

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Mar 21, 2011  |  Updated 9:15 AM EDT
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Lost Weekend for the Knicks

AP

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Latrell Sprewell was at courtside in Milwaukee on Sunday and the presence of the former Knick gave us a chance to raid the memory file for some reassuring news about the current squad.

When Sprewell came to New York in 1999, the team struggled so much during the regular season that it squeezed into the final playoff spot by a game.

Once in the playoffs, the struggles disappeared and the Knicks played nearly flawless basketball to make a run all the way to the NBA Finals where they were outclassed by a much better Spurs team.

That's the kind of miraculous turnaround we're clinging to after watching the Knicks lose two more games to dead-end opposition over the weekend.

Friday's loss to the Pistons featured a blown 10-point lead in the third quarter and Sunday's debacle in Milwaukee started with a nine-point first quarter that put the Knicks in a 23-point hole.

They came back to make a game of it and outplayed the Bucks for the final 36 minutes, which is about as meaningful as serving a roast chicken on beautiful china after overcooking it past the point of being edible.

And on Spike Lee's birthday, of all days.

As Spike would tell you, the big problem with the 1999 analogy is that those Knicks played hard every single night. This year's edition isn't blessed with that kind of work ethic.

After the Bucks game, Carmelo Anthony said something that's probably occurred to anyone who has caught a moment of Knicks basketball over the last two weeks.

"For everyone to get 100 percent on the same page, it might take next season," Anthony said. "But right now, in this short period of time, we've just got to come together as a unit. As far as everybody gelling and the chemistry and clicking to where we want to be at, it's going to take some time."

The first step would be for this team to find some kind of identity other than "low effort team that only bothers to show up and play hard when there's a good team on the other side of the floor."

The offense has been productive, but it has also become much less fluid than it was when it was strictly a Mike D'Antoni operation. It's slower, it's more reliant on jumpers and outages seem to occur a lot more frequently.

It's never easy to ingratiate a bunch of new players on the fly, but it's still hard to understand why the Knicks look like a pick-up team that met five minutes before the tip every single night. 

Some of that has to fall on D'Antoni. It's up to the coach to have his team prepared for battle and the Knicks are consistently losing on that front.

He makes changes on a whim and then changes course 180 degrees.

Sunday's entry on that front was starting Shelden Williams after not playing him in more than a week and then pulling an obviously rusty Williams after six minutes and never returning him to the floor.

That's either the work of a desperate man or a madman and neither one does the Knicks any favors.

The Knicks fell into seventh place with Sunday's loss, and the Sixers, who passed them in the standings, are their polar opposite.

Philly has less talent, but they play hard every minute of every night and Doug Collins has found ways to squeeze wins from the team on a regular basis.

There's something to be learned from that, but don't expect to see the lessons pay off until next year.

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