The Going's Gotten Tough, Who Do the Knicks Turn To?

Teams with the Knicks' talent level are going fair share of games. You have to accept that, but you don't have to accept games like the one the Knicks lost on Wednesday night. Even bad teams play hard and play with pride, and the Knicks didn't do either while the Nets were crushing them 115-89.

On Thursday, coach Mike D'Antoni pointed to a lack of mental toughness as the reason why the team allows games to get away from them like that.

"It's so easy for us to get distracted by a bad call or someone forcing a shot up or not rotating and helping out," D'Antoni said. "We get distracted. It lingers about three or four plays. A hardened veteran team does not succumb to those type of mistakes."

Hardened veteran teams also don't have rosters that look anything like the one coached by D'Antoni. Chris Duhon has started 48 games over the past two seasons, but was put in charge of running the team's offense and playing more minutes than he ever has before. He's breaking down, physically and mentally as well. Al Harrington and Larry Hughes have been traded like baseball cards throughout their career, mostly because they don't do the hardened veteran thing, and whatever mental toughness Nate Robinson has is lost in the pinball machine that is his brain.

Wilson Chandler's too young and Quentin Richardson's not good enough to play, which leaves David Lee. He plays the style of someone who could wear that leader tag, but will the rest of the team follow him? Does he even have the makeup?

He might not, because, often, you need to fail before you succeed. And not fail the way the Knicks failed across Lee's first three seasons, but fail the way it appears they will this season. That's how you learn what's necessary to get the five wins you let slip away and how you make the jump from also-ran to in the mix.  

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

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