Nine straight losses. Nine of ‘em. The New York Knicks haven’t lost nine games in a row since Larry Brown prowled the sidelines in Madison Square Garden. That’s right — even teams that rolled lineups featuring Bill Walker, Renaldo Balkman, Jared Jeffries, Eddie House, and more friends didn’t even lose nine in a row. The dreaded Isiah Thomas didn’t lose nine games in a row! But currently, a team with the second highest payroll in the league, featuring the reigning scoring champ, the reining Sixth Man of the Year, a former number one draft pick, a First Team Rookie selection in 2012, and several former All-Stars can’t win even a quarter of their games.
The Knicks are so pathetic that it’s hard to imagine that they have a favorable matchup with any team. (What if the Knicks don’t win a game for the rest of the season?!). But this week, weirdly, they have some favorable, seriously winnable games. Let’s take a look.
Thursday 12/5 at Brooklyn Nets
It’s the battle of New York that we’ve all been waiting for! The Rumble in the Concrete Jungle! The Grapple for the Big Apple! Who will own New York City basketball? 8 combined wins, 25 combined losses, veterans, injuries, disinterest! Prepare for the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets!
Was there any more exciting Eastern Conference showdown coming into the season? Nets-Heat could give it a run, as could Heat-Pacers or Heat-Bulls, but no two teams trash talked more than the Knicks and the Nets. After two solid seasons in 2012-13, it seemed like this would be a real rivalry. Both teams showed a legitimate disdain for one another, and both teams seemed to have upgraded, or at least stayed level during this past summer. This was supposed to be the rivalry of the year!
One month into the season, it’s actually hard to find a more pathetic franchise than either the Knicks or the Nets. Both teams are slow, boring, plagued by injuries, riddled in their own incompetence. Both teams rank in the bottom ten in offensive rating, rebounding, and pace, the bottom five in defensive rating, and the lower half of the league in True Shooting. Thursday should be a fun time.
The Nets are trying to get Deron Williams and Brook Lopez healthy, but in the meantime are missing Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry, and now, it’s been announced the Paul Pierce will miss 2-4 weeks with a hand injury. The latter might help the Nets, actually, as Pierce has been pretty bad this season. If the Knicks can’t beat an equally bad franchise missing half of their rotation, then they can’t beat anyone.
Friday 12/6 vs. Orland Magic
The Orlando Magic have been a somewhat pleasant surprise. On one hand, they’ve exceeded expectations by going 6-10 instead of feeding on the bottom of the conference. Good for them! On the other hand, they’re better than the Knicks, which is bad for the Knicks.
The Magic do possess an awesome, rebound-swallowing center in Nikola Vucevic, two athletic, versatile wings in Aaron Afflalo and Victor Oladipo (this is one of my favorite dunks of the year, so far), and a bunch of scraggly rookies. But the Magic are 6-10. They’re not that good. They’re below average in offensive rating, and just slightly above average in defensive rating. They have the tools to give the Knicks nightmares, but the hope is that, at some point, the Knicks will realize they have about triple the talent and depth of the Magic, and will simply overpower them. That’s a big wish, though.
Sunday 12/8 vs. Boston Celtics
Sunday matinee games against the Boston Celtics used to be a mark-your-calendar event a couple years ago when the Celtics were challenging for championships and the Knicks were really bad. Now, both teams are just bad and boring. Boston is in a pseudo-rebuilding phase, while the Knicks are just disappointing on about every level.
Like the Magic, the Celtics are a little bit of a surprise in that they aren’t terrible. They’re 7-12, which is good enough to be in battle for a playoff position. These Brad Stevens-led Celtics defend the ball with vigor (1oth in defensive rating), but they struggle to score the ball nightly. Without Rajon Rondo, they don’t have a true, natural point guard, so they rely on guys like Gerald Wallace, Jordan Crawford, Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee, and Kelly Olynyk to create offense. Yeah, it’s that bad. They’re even worse on offense than the Knicks.
It’s another tall order, but the Knicks simply have more talent than the Celtics. They really should beat them.
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The Knicks aren’t in a position to think they’re as good as a playoff team or could compete with a playoff team. The Knicks are frazzled, panicky, and entering dangerous territory where fingers start pointing at one another. They have a lost coach who doesn’t know how to handle the team, what their strengths are, or even the ability to recognize/accept that certain styles work for this team, even if they rub against his personal philosophies.
Still, the Knicks are facing three teams with an average .345 winning percentage. The Knicks should go 3-0 this week. They probably won’t. 2-1 is still good and a bit more reasonable. Hell, 1-2 would be an upgrade over the past two weeks. If the Knicks don’t win a single game this week against three, non-playoff teams, then it really is time to blow it up.
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