In a month nothing but the Heat will matter in the Easter Conference, so for now let’s talk a little Knicks. Boy, November feels like ages ago; when Rasheed Wallace was backing down fools in the Garden and teams were still lazy on defense. But as they begin their annual slide down the East standings, the Knicks are hurting right now in more ways than one.
It’s more than watching Tyson Chandler crumpled on the floor before the half of last night’s 23 point loss in Denver. It’s more than Carmelo, in his first game back in Denver, was awful from the field, clearly hindered by swelling in his right knee. It’s way more than Amare Stoudemire, who, despite playing somewhat effective basketball for the past three weeks, is back in a suit and will never be a consistently healthy athlete ever again.
The Knicks, in the midst of a brutal five game road trip, are being exposed as mentally weak as well as physically unstable. This is the second consecutive game that was over in the 3rd quarter, and they still have to travel to Portland and Utah, who are combined 43-19 at home.
Between those games is a matinee with Lob City, maybe the worst matchup for the Knicks right now. The athleticism and youth of the Clippers might make Kenyon Martin pass out.
Kenyon Martin. We need to talk about the Knicks rotation right now. This roster is filled with jump shooters, but now that the Knicks are running out of big men, there’s no way this team can compete. James White is getting more minutes, but from what I’ve seen thus far is best skill is without a doubt fouling. Iman Shumpert looks to be getting back to full strength, but his offensive game is so limited right now he can’t be the primary weapon on the floor. And that leaves me with J.R Smith, the man I’d never want to play a game of pick-up hoops with.
Smith is one of the NBA’s most frustrating scorers. The definition of streaky, Smith will occasionally make an improbable highlight-reel worthy shot, giving him liberty to jack up 20 more. But now with all the injuries, Smith has gone from a spark off the bench to depending on his shooting to generate offense. And it just isn’t working.
Have the Knicks been quitting? That’s not fair to say. But this team desperately needs rest, and they aren’t going to get it right now. The Knicks have one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, and right now it is a glaring flaw. Because not only to the best teams in the league right now have youth, most of them like to run. A lot. And from what I’ve learned, old guys don’t run like young guys.
I’m not saying the Knicks won’t make the playoffs. Hey, if they end up paired with the Hawks or Bulls, they might even grab a win or two. But this is a fighter on wobbly legs. And whether they realize it or not, they just can’t seem to punch back as strong as before. We’ll update this situation as we learn more about the knees of Melo and Chandler. Stay tuned.