Following another heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, the Knicks’ record fell to 25-37, 4.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. FiveThirtyEight projects New York’s playoffs chances at one percent; the Knicks haven’t sniffed the postseason since the 2012-13 season.
If the projections hold up, it will be the fourth straight season the Knicks fail to reach the postseason. Distractions like team president Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony’s no-trade clause, Derrick Rose going AWOL in early January, and Knicks legend Charles Oakley being cuffed and dragged out of Madison Square Garden have dominated headlines.
The 32-year-old Anthony, in particular, misses the opportunity to compete for a championship. Speaking to Laura Albanese of Newsday, Melo — who has reached the playoffs in 10 of his 14 NBA seasons– isn’t accustomed to sitting home once the regular season concludes.
“It’s something that I’ve gotten used to throughout my career,” Anthony said.
“Just being there and giving myself a shot of at least seeing what can happen in the playoffs. I miss it. I miss it a lot. It’s something that I think about.”
Instead, the focus has turned to the Knicks possibly “tanking” the rest of the season to secure a higher draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. After Brandon Jennings was waived on Monday and Joakim Noah underwent potentially season-ending surgery, that focus became more apparent in many peoples’ minds.
Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, however, scoffed at the notion the team is trying to lose on purpose before a heartbreaking loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
“Who says we’re trying to lose?” Hornacek said. “As a team, we’re not thinking about losing. If that’s what it comes down to and then we get a different draft pick, we’ll worry about it then.”
Anthony, in his conversation with Albanese, echoed the same sentiments.
“As a player, you always disagree with that,” Anthony said in regards to the team looking forward to the draft rather than fight for a playoff spot.
“We’re the ones that are out there and playing and trying to win basketball games. I think it’s easier from the outside looking in, from a fan perspective, to say, OK, just tank, just lose games. I don’t know how you do that as a player.”
Friday’s loss to the 76ers could have been the proverbial final nail in the coffin. Derrick Rose missed a wide-open layup, two free throws, and allowed a turnover in the final three minutes; Anthony missed a potential game-winning shot; Courtney Lee missed the potential game-tying three-pointer in the 105-102 loss.
This game marked the third time this season the Knicks faced the 76ers and the game came down to the final shot — the 76ers have the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference and fifth-worst in the entire NBA.
Lee, who missed the three to end the game, gave a prophetic assessment for the remainder of the year.
“Time’s running out, the season is running out and games are running out also,” Lee said, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 4, 2017
The Knicks have 20 games left to steer a three-quarters sunken ship to the playoffs. In other words, a season’s worth of ineptitude has three weeks to either revive or sink.
“I don’t know how you go into a game and say, ‘Today we’re going to try to lose this game or these next 15, 20 games. We’re going to figure out ways to lose and tank the season and start thinking about draft picks,'” Anthony said. “That’s a terrible way to think and I don’t think any player in any sport should be thinking that.”
Luckily for Anthony, he wields a no-trade clause that could come in handy this offseason if the Knicks — who have made their preference to deal Anthony clear — want to trade him to an actual playoff contender.
[Featured Image by Al Bello/Getty Images]