Words by Jason Gordon
Yet, some of the improvements made by this current team have been negated by many NBA analysts and writers. The roller coaster season of the Knicks currently has them in a downward spiral, riding a six-game losing streak entering Friday night’s road clash in Milwaukee.
During the first six weeks of the season, a 3-6 start was followed by a 11-4 surge over the next month, giving fans hope that New York was turning the corner. Since then, however, they’ve only managed two wins in their last 11 games.
One of the key problems for the Knicks continues to be their struggling defence. They’re currently 23rd when it comes to deflecting passes and 28th when it comes to drawing charges. That’s a real indication showing the willingness of a team to pay the price over the course of a season.
Kurt Rambis has been carving out new strategies over the past few months in his Phil Jackson-created role of defensive coordinator, with no discernable success during that time. However, Hornacek is making an effort to increase the scope of the team’s communication with each other.
That communication definitely wasn’t in evidence on New Year’s Eve, when Houston’s James Harden shredded them for 53 points and also added 17 assists and 16 rebounds. Stopping Harden has often been impossible for teams more consistent than the Knicks – with Harden a leading MVP candidate – yet the seven-point margin of defeat shows that applying even a modicum of stronger defence on him might have changed the end result.
The truth is that the Knicks may be limited as far as options to improve on the defensive front. The trading deadline is more than a month away, but the Knicks don’t have much in the way of tradeable talent – unless they want to make the mistake of overhauling the team again.
Looking at things from the perspective of a playoff bid, New York has the good fortune to be part of the Eastern Conference. That means that the competition for those final playoff spots will be against teams that aren’t quite as formidable as those on the Western side.
Still, it might be better for the Knicks to miss out on the postseason, since they face an early departure against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Toronto Raptors. Plus, the current Achilles problems of Kristaps Porzingis might be better served to ease without added games on the schedule. The danger of losing him for much of next year would put New York in an even bigger hole.