Blown leads aren’t new in the National Basketball Association. In fact, the regularity with which they occur is precisely what makes pro hoops compelling; no advantage is safe, and nothing elicits reactions from fans more than unlikely outcomes. Still, the Knicks can’t possibly be thrilled with their swoon; it’s one thing to lose a given match after being ahead early on or even late, and quite another to lose after being ahead big early on and proving unable to stay afloat late. Yesterday’s setback, their third straight and 11th in the last 14 games, was particularly galling; after building a cushion that stood as high as 19 in the second half, they bowed to the middling Pelicans in overtime, much to the chagrin of the 19,812-strong Garden crowd.
Needless to say, the Knicks are stinking up the joint. Offensively, they aren’t good enough to trade baskets with two-thirds of the league, especially with top dog Kristaps Porzingis crashing back to earth after a sterling start. Meanwhile, their defense leaves much to be desired, in no small measure because only a handful can play both ways. It’s why the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis managed to torch them for 48 and 17, and why Jrue Holiday, norming an already robust 18 by his standards, could erupt for 31.
In the immediate term, the good news is that the Knicks will be facing relatively lighter competition. They’ll be kicking off their two-week road trip against the Nets, Grizzlies, Jazz, and Lakers, who are a whopping 44 games under .500 all told, and whom they should dispatch with ease. If anything, how they deal with adversity through the remaining matches of the month will inform their strategy heading into the trade deadline.
In any case, one thing’s sure: The Knicks can’t pin their January swoon on departed president Phil Jackson. This time last year, they blamed their poor record on the executive, ostensibly because of an ill-informed insistence on running the outdated triangle system, not to mention an unhealthy tiff with 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Thusly, the onus is on head coach Jeff Hornacek to prove his style of management and execution works. Otherwise, it will again be a colorful offseason marked by finger pointing.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.