For much of the 2010-2011 NBA season, the vibe around the New York Knicks was better than it has been in a long time. And you could understand why.
Amare Stoudemire proclaimed 'The Knicks are back,' when he signed with them as a $100 million free agent last summer, then proceeded to make good on his boast. The Stoudemire-Raymond Felton-Danilo Gallinari version of the Knicks ripped off an eight-game winning streak prior to Christmas, the Knicks' longest since 1995.
The Knicks were relevant in the NBA again. Stars not named Spike Lee were showing up in droves to watch their games at Madison Square Garden. It became obvious months ago that the Knicks were headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The excitement reached a fever pitch in late February when the Knicks completed the long-awaited trade with Denver for superstar Carmelo Anthony, giving the Knicks a pair of stars to try and compete with the league's upper echelon teams. A victory over the Miami Heat just days after the deal for Anthony and Chauncey Billups further fueled the raging optimism.
Since then? The Knicks have crashed, and maybe crashed is too gentle of a word. Right now they are a train wreck. They have lost six straight games and are just 5-11 since March 1. They can't guard anybody. They can't rebound. They look lost on offense and seemingly have no idea how to get shots at the end of close games. Anthony has been moody, and after one game stormed from the locker room after being critical of coach Mike D'Antoni.
SB Nation New York's Chris Celletti has begun calling for the firing of D'Antoni, who seems helpless to figure out how to organize a team whose offensive personnel doesn't suit his usual style.
How long does D'Antoni have? At what point is a change made? We're now at the point where it has to be discussed. The Knicks could lose out and probably still make the playoffs. But what kind of message is being sent to the fans when you hold on to a coach who clearly has no grip on his basketball team, especially heading into the playoffs?
If the Knicks make the playoffs, and don't advance, D'Antoni should be fired. That's if he makes it that far. But it's clear that the acquisitions of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups do not fit with D'Antoni. The idea that they need time together to gel is purely an excuse; the team has gotten significantly worse over the past few weeks. D'Antoni is purely reaching, and doesn't really know where to go.
To be honest, that is hard to argue with. Watch the games and you see a team that is not only defenseless, but rudderless. The Knicks (35-38) don't seem to be in danger of missing the playoffs, though it is understandable if Knicks fans are getting nervous. With nine games to go they have a 4.5-game lead over Charlotte (30-42) and with several games left against non-playoff teams it's hard to imagine the Knicks not finding a way to win at least a couple of games.
Question is, what's the point? All the excitement and optimism around this team has evaporated, leaving only questions and lots of talk about learning to play together. If the Knicks finish as the seventh seed they face Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. If they fall to eighth, they will likely face the Chicago Bulls.
Unless something changes drastically, which is highly improbable, no way the Knicks get past either of those teams. Trading for Anthony was still the right move for the Knicks in the long run as it should help them bring in other players. This season, however, looks like a lost cause.
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