Following Sunday’s 41-point trouncing by the Boston Celtics, you’d think the Knicks would’ve been scared straight into performing better than they did last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Instead, they returned to the court looking uncannily similar– very sluggish with a lack of intensity. The Cavs went on a 14-0 run in the first quarter, pinning the Knicks in an 18-point hole.
Briefly in the second quarter, the Knicks bounced back, however. They tied the game at 40-40, giving us hope that they actually showed up to compete. The Knicks bench contributed 17-points and were led by a revitalized Amar’e Stoudemire (15 pts, 5 rbds) and on-the-floor leadership of Pablo Prigioni (6 pts, 9 asts). But as we’ve seen in the past, the Knicks weren’t able to sustain momentum when they broke for the half.
Early in the third quarter, which is traditionally the downfall of the team, the Knicks were down by one. And then Kyrie Irving (37 pts, 11 asts) happened, to which the Knicks had no answer. Irving’s 12-point boost put the game out of reach and Prigioni on skates. The team looked helpless, and Mike Woodson looked unaware of how to stop the hemorrhaging.
For a bunch of guys who are supposedly so concerned about Coach Woodson’s job status, the team sure doesn’t play like it. If actions are an indication of how hard the Knicks ride for Woodson, abort this mission immediately! There is nothing in the team’s demeanor that suggests they genuinely want to win. Even as I type, I think that statement sounds foolish as hell because their pride, love of the game, and oh, I don’t know, tens of millions of dollars should be more than enough motivation, but apparently it’s not. So, if the fear of losing Woody will give the team a reason to care, so be it. But they need to start playing as if they mean it, like yesterday.
It’s a shame what Brad Stevens was able to do against the Knicks with the squad of no-names he’s coaching. When players buy into a coach’s system, which the Celtics clearly have, it shows. The Knicks on the other hand…?
The team is filled with a bunch of non-believers, who don’t trust each other. The team lacks chemistry, an identity, and leadership.
Tyson Chandler is closer to returning. He participated in practice drills and is expected to return in the next 10 days, which is ahead of schedule. I hope for all involved, the Knicks aren’t rushing Chandler back. Although the team desperately needs him, this faulty plan will ultimately backfire. Plus, while I recognize he’s sorely missed, I also know his absence isn’t the only cause for the team’s struggles.
We were 1-3 with Chandler before he got injured. The hinges were already loosening, and all signs were pointing to a disastrous start. Why? Because Woodson is still the same stubborn coach who insists on rewarding J.R. Smith’s mindless shooting. Or holding a grudge against Shumpert for actually speaking the truth about Melo’s blown defensive assignments, and other petty reasons unknown. Or refusing to play Prigs more despite what the numbers say, and having a successful run at a two-guard rotation last season. His excuses are insensible! If Woody doesn’t get over himself, and start coaching based on talent rather than favoritism, the Knicks will never win. Period.
James Dolan, an owner who reportedly issued a playoff declaration to his coaching staff earlier this season, met Woodson after Sunday’s inexcusable loss to the Celtics. It’s unclear what message was delivered, but I’d bet my bottom dollar not too many pleasantries were exchanged. Woody sees the writing on the wall and is feeling the heat. He might be able to convince Dolan that Chandler is the answer, but when Chandler returns and the Knicks’ losing continues, then what?
In sports they say it’s good to have a short memory. Conveniently blocking out the embarrassing losses helps the recovery process. But in this case, I disagree. The loss to the Celtics should’ve left a lingering taste so unbearable that the Knicks were determined to never want to even smell it again, let alone taste it. Yet, the Cavs dished out a smaller dose of the same lethal medicine. The Knicks face the Chicago Bulls tonight. If the Knicks lose their third straight, Woody’s coaching career in NYC is as good as dead.