With their current season down the drain, it’s understandable that the Knicks are looking toward the future and may have a higher potential draft pick in their sights. If the losses pile up because the team’s youngsters are experiencing growing pains, that’s one thing. At the same time, this team needs to compete when they’re able, because otherwise, it’s difficult to believe that the organization is looking to develop a winning culture. It should be worth it to fight for victories here and there, if only to satisfy those players who may carry over from this season to the next.
On Tuesday, the Knicks had a very winnable game at their fingertips against the Mavericks. Poor choices from head coach Jeff Hornacek allowed it to slip away.
New York’s offense is clearly centered around the youngsters. Despite returning to the starting lineup against Dallas, Courtney Lee appeared dejected, attempting one field goal in just 15 minutes. Enes Kanter shot 1 of 4 in 21 minutes of play. The two players are the Knicks’ second and third active leading scorers (behind Tim Hardaway Jr.). If they’re going to play, they should be more involved in the offense and the respective flow of a game. It’s clear that helping each one find their rhythm wasn’t a priority. In addition, it has to be difficult to stay motivated and make contributions when, internally, you know the coach can yank you out of a game at a moment’s notice. At this point, Coach Hornacek should be benching his veterans if he’s not going to allow them to make a meaningful impact. It’s detrimental to everyone to throw them out on the court without the same commitment to competing.
The Knicks have had trouble through the third quarter of various contests for a while now, but the lack of motivation seemed to be a contributing factor in the underwhelming play from both Lee and Kanter against the Mavericks. Their energy was low, but who could blame them under these circumstances? Despite holding a three point lead heading into halftime, the Knicks were outscored by 14 in the third. The veteran pair looked despondent on defense and that gave way to a big void.
If Coach Hornacek had any interest in winning this game, it certainly wasn’t clear to the naked eye. He didn’t have a pulse on the flow of the contest or the needs of his team. It wasn’t until late in the game that New York received an injection of life in the form of Trey Burke. The young gun scored 16 points in the game’s final 15 points and almost singlehandedly helped the Knicks come all the way back. Where was he earlier in the game? If New York is committed to the development of their youngsters, why couldn’t the 25 year old be found early on? Hornacek left many scratching their heads as they pondered these questions following another strange loss, this time a 110-97 defeat at home.
As evidenced by its warning to the Bulls, the NBA is cracking the whip on teams that are openly tanking and hoping to lose. If the Knicks are internally turning their backs on competing, Coach Hornacek is going to have to find a way that still keeps his veterans in high regard, so that the outside world isn’t left questioning his own decisions. This game didn’t bode well from any potential future the current coach has in the Big Apple.