The New York Knicks are 5-7 and battling Milwaukee, Indiana, Boston and the Detroit PIstons for the 8th playoff spot. All things considered, that’s not a deplorable situation to be in. Phil Jackson’s celebrated “Jackson Five” starting lineup that he crafted this offseason is still working the kinks out.
Many types of media drive public opinion these days and hungry Knicks fans have become the loudest and most emotionally unstable ranters. After wins, they are overly optimistic about the prospects of their squad. After losses, they go back to the "Knicks Suck" cries that have easily rolled from the lips of fans and haters alike over the past decade. These erratic responses reflect the inconsistency of the team over the first 12 games of this 2016-17 season.
At this point, the Knicks are still a mystery.
What we do know is that the Knicks aren’t a championship caliber team. With that being said, we don’t know how good this squad can be once they really gel and gain some chemistry.
The last week shows us everything we need to know about the team at this juncture. FIrst, Phil Jackson brings negative attention to the team and makes the league and the fans hate them even more by calling King James and his court of compadres a “Posse,” just as the Knicks seemed to be getting in a winning groove.
On Wednesday night, the Knicks rode the unselfishness of Melo and the career-high 35-point dominance of Kristaps Porzingis (The one ingenious move in The Phil Jackson Era) to a strong win over the Pistons.
The Knicks chartered a train to Washington anticipating a third-straight win, but instead they saw their season-high two-game winning streak suffer a derailment Thursday at the Verizon Center in an ugly and unmotivated 119-112 loss to the Wizards.
It was a typical Knicks performance; lackluster moments and defensive fragility mixed with periods of elite team play like the 47-point fourth quarter they laid on the Wizards. Unfortunately, Jackson's Five had fallen behind by so much that even a near 50-point quarter couldn’t save them.
The Knicks have some real bright spots despite their losing record.
Derrick Rose is playing heavy minutes and is getting more and more comfortable every game. He had 27 points on Thursday night. The former MVP is averaging 14.8 ppg and about 5 assists.
Melo has willingly relinquished some offensive control to his multi-talented seven-footer. Both he and Porzingis are averaging over 20 points per game and if they are both on at the same time, the Knicks are hard to beat. Fans and media also need to chill on saying the Knicks are "Porzingis' team now."
They need to stop putting unnecessary pressure on a young player who is still adjusting to the league and the country. They also need to stop chanting "MVP" when Porzingis has a monster game. It's silly and makes the franchise look bad. The kid is very good, but he isn't Bernard King or Patrick Ewing-nice yet.
The focus needs to be kept on the entire team progressing and growing together and accomplishing some goals.
A great starting point would be improving road performance.
As is typical of a new team trying to establish its footing, the Knicks haven’t been able to win on the road.
Guard Brandon Jennings, who scored 15 points in that final period against John Wall's Wizards after the Knicks had fallen behind by 27 points, was tighter than a pair of Kevin Garnett jeans after the Knicks dropped to 1-5 in road games.
“We haven’t been locking in well on the road,” Jennings, one of Jackson's key offseason acquisitions said after the game. “That’s our big problem. If we want to be the team we think we are, we’re going to have to lock in better on the road. We got to play 10 times harder. Teams play better when they’re at home because they’re feeling good.”
Jennings also put into perspective what being on the Knicks requires.
“We’re the Knicks," he said. "You have to know what’s across your chest. There’s a bigger bull’s-eye on it. Everybody wants to beat us. It’s a known national team. These are games we have to win. We should be disappointed. We can’t just put together two quarters or try to come back in the fourth.”
It’s a process. Everyone dissing the Knicks needs to relax for a minute and see the silver linings in a circus that is morphing into a decent NBA sideshow. I would personally like to see more pride and hustle. Yes, those are cliche words, but on the road over a grueling 82-game season, games are won with that formula.
If Phil can just lay low and Melo and Porzingis can keep blossoming as one of the top frontcourts in the NBA, and the role guys like Joakim Noah can stay healthy and motivated, a playoff berth is not out of the question.
That’s really all Knicks fans can realistically hope for these days.