Earlier on Friday, we took a look at Mike D'Antoni's call for mental toughness from his troops as they try to continue their increasingly futile quest for a playoff spot. The end result was the feeling that a push at the postseason, even an unsuccessful one, was going to be the only way to develop that kind of toughness.
Mike K. of Knickerblogger.net also sees the season's final 15 games as a proving ground. He's just looking at the opposite way, and calls for the Knicks to concede the season. That's a nicer word than tanking, but his suggestion plays out about the same way. He argues that the Knicks should play Eddy Curry, Demetris Nichols, Cheikh Samb and Chris Wilcox more than guys in the established rotation to find out what they have on their hands.
And in the interim, playing the reserves would increase New York’s standings in the June draft. While the only team that they might realistically pass is Indiana (who is 1 game away from the Knicks), it’s just as important for New York to not allow any of the teams ahead of them to improve their draft day position. The Bucks, Bobcats, and Nets are all within 2 games of the Knicks. From any perspective the worst scenario would be New York passing all those teams in the standings without making the playoffs. If D’Antoni shifts his main focus from winning individual games to developing the end of his bench, New York would probably avoid such a undesirable fate.
As of today, the Knicks playoff probability stands at 1.7 percent. That makes taking the foot off the gas seem like a pretty easy decision. Also, Mike K. plots out his argument well, which makes it easier to agree with. Their chances of winning the lottery, though, are just 1.4 percent, which makes it harder to say that there's much to be gained from finishing 13th in the East as opposed to 11th.
This isn't a good draft by anyone's estimation, which means the Knicks won't be getting a markedly better player based on a minimal difference in draft position. More than that, though, another season that ends with a towel thrown in is not a building block for the future.
That doesn't mean there's not a middle ground. Samb may have a role as a shot blocker and showcasing Curry has obvious rewards. With Danilo Gallinari gone, there are minutes to be spread around, and there's no reason to keep playing Quentin Richardson and Jared Jeffries because they help neither quest. Shake up the rotation and see what happens, but don't send the message that winning isn't important in the process.