The New York Knicks are supposed to be special. New York is thought to be the spiritual home of basketball, the Knicks play in the revered Madison Square Garden, and the club has enjoyed great moments.
However, the Knicks have been ordinary for a decade and, at the moment, they are quite a bit south of ordinary. They have lost five consecutive games to fall to 3-9.
They own the second-highest payroll in the NBA at US$88 million (Dh323m), but only three teams have a worse record. They are among the worst teams in the league in shooting, rebounding and defence, and their coach, Mike Woodson, could be the first fired this season.
“We ain’t playing good basketball right now, and we’ve got to fix it,” said Carmelo Anthony, the team’s best player.
The Knicks last won an NBA title 40 years ago. But when the season started, a euphoria of high expectations, peculiar to Knicks fans, surrounded the team and has, as usual, been shown to be unrealistic.
Anthony is their only reliable scorer. Tyson Chandler, a centre known for rebounding and defence, is hurt, and point guard Raymond Felton is out with a nerve injury in his hip. Both are starters.
Meanwhile, the once-great forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who was meant to complement Anthony, has had three knee surgeries in 12 months. He has played sporadically and contributed little. He maintains greatness lies ahead, a Knicks vanity. “My mission is to become a great player and hopefully become a future Hall of Fame player and my goal is to do it here in New York and finish off my career here,” Stoudemire said.
“That’s the goal. That’s the mission.”
As for those championship ambitions, the Knicks will have to rally sharply to make the play-offs. They look old, not particularly athletic and play as if they expect to lose. “This is tough for anybody to go through,” Anthony said. “Especially games you believe you should be winning, guys feel they should be playing better. We feel like we should be playing better as a team. Guys could easily lose confidence in a situation like that.”
And after a loss of confidence, comes … panic? New York is an impatient city and the club’s owner, James Dolan, has a history of destructive meddling.
“We’re frustrated,” said guard JR Smith. “Like you say, it’s too early to panic, but me, personally, I’m panicking.”
Woodson longs for a healthy team.
“You got two starters not in uniform,” Woodson said. “I don’t know what kind of team we really have. We haven’t had a full deck. Somehow, we have to get to that just to see where we are. Until we get there, we got to somehow maintain and hold this thing down so it don’t get too far out of whack.”