It seems that the entire city misunderstood what Stoudemire was saying. The Knicks are indeed back, but it is the Knicks of 2004, 2007 and every other year in the awful aughts rather than the winning teams that are getting harder and harder to remember. Had we known that at the time, we probably would have just saved our giddiness for the next Justin Bieber sighting because this is just too frustrating.
The Knicks lost again on Sunday night, 104-96 to a Rockets team that was without Yao Ming and starting point guard Aaron Brooks. Trailing by nine entering the final period, the Knicks stopped playing and fell behind by as many as 19 before doing some superficial work to make it look a little better in the final reckoning. No one who actually saw the game was fooled, though. This team is sick and relief isn't looming anywhere on the horizon.
What is looming is a four-game trip out West which could put this season on the brink before we even get to Thanksgiving. These kinds of road swings are difficult under the best of circumstances, and those circumstances are as foreign to this team as running a pick-and-roll successfully is to Raymond Felton.
Although he certainly plays the role with aplomb, Felton might not be the main problem with the Knicks offense. It's hard to watch the Knicks standing around, running isolation plays and firing up perimeter prayers without turning your gaze to the team's bench in disbelief that a Mike D'Antoni team is so hapless offensively. It was particularly galling on Friday night in Minnesota as the team turned a 21-point lead into a loss and their willingness to settle for awful shots made Kevin Love a folk hero with 31 rebounds.
When you throw in substitution patterns that make little sense and a doghouse with arbitrary rules for entry, it gets hard to keep the faith that D'Antoni is going to point this team in the right direction in the near future. The same problems keep hampering the team and there doesn't seem to be an attempt to try new solutions. He hasn't been dealt a killer hand, but the lack of superior talent may be exposing some of D'Antoni's shortcomings as a head coach.
It's still early, but this feels like a pretty crucial moment. The Knicks have to stop the losing now or shuffle back into the irrelevance they've called home for the last 10 years.