Sam SpiegelmanThe New York Knicks have been teasing us all season long. It seems like in between the team’s losing streaks it displays spurts of impressive play, wins over over playoff teams that give us the impression the team is making progress and is poised to make a run toward a playoff spot.
Then it’s days like yesterday that put all the optimism to rest.
On the court, Carmelo Anthony dropped another 40-spot on the Dallas Mavericks, but it wasn’t enough to get past Dirk Nowitzki at home. You can’t blame the loss on Nowitzki’s clutch gene, though, because a look back at the numbers reveal that Anthony is essentially playing alone against the Western Conference’s No. 7 team.
Amar’e Stoudemire who was red-hot leading up to the All-Star Break contributed nine points and two rebounds, and that’s in 20 minutes as a starter. Raymond Felton is the team’s point guard, and there are no other starting-caliber options since Beno Udrih’s contract was bought out. But Felton mustered seven assists. Let’s be real: J.R. Smith dished out seven assists last night. Where’s the facilitation?
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Smith have been pretty steady as scorers off the bench, but this entire season has really be a step back for Smith who looked like a great No. 2 option to Anthony last year. Tyson Chandler has been a rock when healthy, and a 12-point, 12-rebound night is a pretty awesome stat line for a defensive-minded center.
When Melo is dropping 40, it seems as if the rest of the team is just a bunch of spectators. The team committed 19 turnovers and aside from Anthony’s seven 3-pointers, the team combined for 7-of-21 from beyond the arc. Aren’t the Knicks supposed to be making a living from the perimeter?
A look off the court and the situation gets even murkier. Felton garnering more headlines for his off-the-court antics than he is for what he’s doing on the floor. Early Tuesday morning he was arrested on three counts of criminal possession of a weapon, according to reports. This is all-too-reminiscent of Plaxico Burress’ nightclub incident when he was a member of the New York Giants years ago. Obviously Felton has forgotten about that disaster as Burress went to jail for the felony firearm charges — not to mention he was exiled from the Giants and brought unwanted attention to the team.
We await a verdict from the Felton situation but already it has caused an unnecessary stir in New York.
Last night, Smith was up to his old tricks again, and instead of untying shoelaces at the free-throw line he was pulling down the headband of Vince Carter. Smith was benched earlier this season for his absurd antics and fined $50,000 by the league, but of course that was weeks ago; Smith has already forgotten that lesson.
Perhaps Smith’s juvenile acts would be more tolerable if he was scoring 18.1 points per game like he did last season, but he isn’t. And while his production in the court is suspect a lot of the time, his behavior on it is yet again in question. Smith needs to grow up, and quick, or he could (and should) be a part of the team’s overhaul heading into next season.
And of course, no story of disarray is complete with an Artest.
On Monday the Knicks bought out the contracts of Udrih and World Peace, which forced not only the player but the player’s brother to make headlines with their comments.
In an interview with ESPN Radio in New York, World Peace blasted the Knicks organization for not giving him a fair shot to succeed.
“I don’t think I was given a fair chance,” he said, adding he didn’t think the “timing” was right for a successful run with the Knicks. “People automatically assume that I’m getting old.”
By the water, World Peace was averaging 13.4 minutes per game for New York, averaging 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game when he wasn’t sidelined due to a lingering knee injury.
More pressing was the Twitter rant of World Peace’s brother, Daniel Artest, who used social media to tweet at the Knicks’ PR account with his thoughts on the manner. Among the tweets sent, one said “I’m more disappointed that Ron didn’t get a chance. No knock but some players didn’t play the mins deserved. I know Ron could’ve helped.” Another: “the @nyknicks org should worry about winning and ur on floor product instead of what I’m tweeting next.”
This is a circus, on and off the court, plain and simple. Anthony is putting up MVP-caliber numbers on a team six games out of a playoff spot that was assembled to compete for a championship. They’re less a year removed from being the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and now the No. 8 seed seems almost too far out of reach. The team’s point guard may be imprisoned. One of the team’s highest-paid players is untying shoelaces and pulling down headbands. And it’s former players are knocking the organization in radio interviews.
The bright side: the team can only go up from here.