The New York Knicks got off to their hottest start since the 90’s this season, beginning 18-5, including an opening night victory against the Miami Heat, an early six-game winning streak, and a crazy comeback victory over the NBA-best Spurs. The Knickerbockers were shooting absolutely lights out from behind the three-point line, Jason Kidd was a major catalyst for this team winning, the defense was unstoppable, and Melo was playing the best basketball in the NBA, and of his entire career.
Since then, not so much.
After the hot 23-game start by New York, they’ve gone 13-14, and only seem to be beating bad teams these days. Even great teams like the Miami Heat go through some stretches during the course of a season where they’re not playing their best basketball, lose some games, but then bounce back and keep up their winning ways. Unfortunately for the Knicks, this isn’t just one of those stretches.
The Knicks are still beating teams that they should beat, like the Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons. Of course, any good team should. Although, it seems lately that the Knicks just cannot beat a good team anymore. Over the course of their current 13-14 stretch, they’ve lost to teams like the Rockets, Bulls (twice), Celtics, Pacers and Nets, and a vast majority of their wins have been against teams like the Kings, Pistons, Hornets, Magic, and Wizards. Notice a trend? Is it just a coincidence that the Knicks aren’t showing up when they play good teams? Or are they just not able to beat them anymore? I’m going with the ladder.
This is not to say the Knicks won’t fix what they have to fix and get back on track in beating above-.500 teams in time for crunch time. But the way they’re playing right now, it’s not going to happen any time soon. At the beginning of the season, the Knicks were beating teams with ridiculous 3-point shooting and great defense. While they still have a 3-point barrage once in a while against lowly teams, the better teams are completely shutting down the Knicks on the perimeter and not allowing them any good looks from outside. Additionally, the Knicks switching on defense lately has almost been embarrassing. They seem to be so worried about leaving someone open, that they switch as soon as it looks like there’s a chance their teammate could be beat, and work themselves right into terrible mismatches. These are just two examples of what’s been going wrong, but they’re very important as they were the reason the team was winning in the beginning.
Sure, these are things that can be fixed. But they haven’t been. In fact, they haven’t even really been improving. That’s the scary part. Every time lately that the Knicks get on the court against a tough opponent, the same old bad defense and three-point ineffectiveness rears its ugly head. I am in no way, shape, or form losing hope in Mike Woodson’s ability to coach this team and improve their shortcomings. Although, if something doesn’t start to change soon, my eyes might shift towards the bald guy with the goatee. You can’t coach a team’s inability to do certain things. But that’s not what seems to be wrong with the Knicks. At the beginning of the year, they looked hungry, burning for wins every night, ready to begin their road towards the promise land. Now, it’s almost as though they’re getting cocky, believing they will win every game because they did earlier on, and their lack of effort shows every night. That can be coached. That should be coached. And not just by Woodson, but by Melo as well. Not to say he hasn’t been, but he needs to be a leader for these guys, and help carry this team to where they want to go.
The Knicks have their work cut out for them. They’ve slipped to 3 ½ games behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, but they have an entire second half of the season to set things right again. They have more than enough talent on the roster to contend with the Heat for the 1 seed, which, in my opinion, they should be. They just need to get that fire back, and realize that their first championship since 1973 is not that far out of their reach. This is Melo’s team, and he’ll have to solidify that from here on out if the Knicks want to be on top.