After winning the NBA Atlantic Division title last year with a 54-28 record, the New York Knicks were widely considered to be a favorite once again in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2013-2014 season. But their 3-6 start has been less than inspiring, and now has teammates questioning whether a complete effort is being made.
The Knicks suffered a 110-90 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. It marked their fifth consecutive defeat at home, where they have not won since beating the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night.
Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony, who registered 23 points and 12 rebounds in the loss, was more than upset with his team’s lethargic start to the season.
"We ain't playing worth a s--- right now," Anthony said. "We got to play harder.
"I am disappointed too in all of our effort. We are just not getting it done. It ain't nothing that Coach [Mike] Woodson is doing [or not doing]. It ain't got nothing to do with X's and O's out there on the basketball court. We are not getting it done from an effort standpoint. It's like we are not even trying right now."
The Knicks are a bit banged up—they lost 7’1” center Tyson Chandler to a broken right fibula in early November, and he’s expected to miss at least the next month.
Still, Anthony is right, the Knicks have played like a team just going through the motions. Last week, they lost to the San Antonio Spurs 120-89, trailing at one point by as many as 37 points. It’s one thing to get blown out, but losing the way they did on their own homecourt was an embarrassment.
Coach Mike Woodson is taking his share of heat for his team’s slow start as well. Many fans at Madison Square Garden on Friday were chanting for his dismissal after watching New York’s listless effort against the Hawks.
Woodson himself acknowledged his team’s lackluster performance.
"You're not going to beat anybody playing soft and not hard like we did," Woodson said. "They played extremely hard tonight and we just didn't compete with them."
Woodson could tinker with his lineup to ignite a spark, but after three weeks of play the Knicks shouldn’t need to be motivated by a threat of losing playing time.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith stepped up to take blame.
"Excuse my language but I was playing like s---," he said. "I played terrible. I've been playing terrible since I got back and I wasn't happy about it."
Anthony is at a loss for words in describing what it will take for the Knicks to break out of their funk.
"You just got to do more I guess," Anthony said. "Just try to go out there and get it done as a team. I am not going to do it by myself. I don't want to do it by myself. We got to do it as a team. We keep digging ourselves deeper and deeper.
"It's frustrating. Messed up feeling. Nasty feeling. I really am kind of at a loss for words right now."
The Knicks aren’t alone in terms of struggles. There isn’t one team in their division that has a winning record, and the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets—the two teams expected to battle the Knicks for the division title—are battling their own slumps to start the season.
But for now, the Knicks must find a way to end their own struggles and fight to get back on top. Otherwise, the MSG faithful will continue chanting for change.