If you’re a Knicks fan, this season has been like watching an endless loop of John Starks shooting 2-for-18 against Houston in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 1994 and watching Charles Smith miss four straight layup attempts in the waning seconds of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls in 1993.
The horror! The horror!
The Knicks started this season with so much promise. They were coming off a 54-win season and a second round appearance in the NBA playoffs. There was talk of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals this year. No reason to believe that it wasn’t possible.
But the Knicks stumbled out of the gate and they’ve been staggering ever since. And it’s sad really because their superstar forward, Carmelo Anthony, is having one of the best seasons of his career. He’s averaging 28.2 points a game – three points above his career average – and is second in the NBA in scoring to Oklahoma’s Kevin Durant (31.6 points a game).
They were hit with more bad news when point guard Raymond Felton was charged with felony weapons possession charges after his estranged wife gave New York Police a handgun that Felton had in their apartment on Monday. If convicted Felton could face up to three years in prison. He is free on $25,000 bail and can travel with the team and is set to play against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
It was just another body blow to the Knicks in a season full of disappointment. After another crushing loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, the Knicks have lost nine of their last 11 games and are six games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With just 25 games left, time is running out on the season, and perhaps Anthony’s time in New York.
After that loss to Dallas, Anthony had some cryptic comments that have to make Knicks fans wonder if their wunderkind will return to the team next year or find a place where his abundant talents will lead to a championship. Anthony, a free agent after this season, had scored 44 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Mavericks and saw the Knicks lose on a buzz beater by Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki.
"It's pointless ... You score 40, 44, all losses. You kind of ask yourself, “Is it worth it?" Anthony said after the game.
That should make the hair on the back of the necks of Knicks management stand on end.
Anthony has scored 35 points or more in the last four games and the Knicks are 1-3 in those contests. It was another futile night in what has become a frustrating season for Anthony and the Knicks.
"The way he’s played, it’s a damn shame that we’re in the position we’re in, because our team doesn’t deserve (it) and he definitely does not deserve the position that we’re in," Knicks Coach Mike Woodson said to reporters after the game.
Woodson hasn’t helped matters. He presides over a defensively challenged group that can’t hold a lead in the fourth quarter and tends to panic down the stretch in tight games.
If this is the end of Anthony’s time in New York, then he will go out with a whimper after coming in with a bang. Anthony was supposed to be the linchpin to a championship team. And there was no reason to believe he couldn’t deliver the goods. Anthony is a fearless, prolific scorer whose range is limitless. But the Knicks still haven’t found a way to incorporate that into a team concept. And that might be the biggest challenge for any team where Anthony lands. He seems to be a singular force waiting for a catalyst to ignite into a championship reaction.
It was the same for other NBA superstars that have come before him – Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Bryant once implored Anthony to consider coming to Los Angeles and helping him recharge the Lakers’ championship batteries. But Bryant has spent the last two years hobbled by injuries and the Lakers have fallen into disrepair and despair as deep as the Knicks and Anthony now find themselves.
Anthony will have some major decisions to make once the season is over. He will have to weigh money over his desire to find a championship home. The Knicks can sign Anthony to a maximum contract worth $129 million over five years. If he signs with another team the maximum contract he can sign is four-years for $96 million.
Anthony has said that his first priority is to sign with the Knicks, but he wants to have a discussion with team ownership and management about their plans to build a championship team in New York.
There probably isn’t much to discuss here. They’ve been promising to do that since Anthony showed up four years ago and he has seen the results of their efforts. The Knicks are 15 games under .500 for the first time this season and they are six games away from a playoff spot with 25 games remaining in the season. Things look dim for them this season. They will look even bleaker next year without Anthony on the roster.