8 Biggest Disappointments for New York Knicks so Far
The 2013-14 New York Knicks are a total mess, finding new and exciting ways to punish their fans in every game.
This team is a horrific combination of both individual and institutional failures. The players are every bit as talented as the Knicks group that won 54 games last season, but they're experiencing demoralizing funks as they come together to form a roster somehow less effective than the sum of their struggling parts.
New York has a 10-21 record, and only a handful of those wins have actually been cause for cheer. Be it because of injuries, ineptitude or both, many of the victories have felt like moral defeats themselves, which is to say nothing of how hopeless the actual losses have felt.
A list of Knick disappointments this season can go on forever, but for sanity's sake, we'll cap it at eight.
Signing Chris Smith
The Chris Smith era in New York is finally over, as the Knicks waived the 26-year-old point guard to make room for Jeremy Tyler on the 15-man roster.
But let's take a moment and process that Smith's Knicks tenure even happened.
In NBA conversations, he was best known for two things: being J.R. Smith's little brother, and not being good enough at basketball to belong in NBA conversations.
Giving him a chance at Summer League and in training camp was one thing, but actually giving him a roster spot was so bizarre that Grantland's network could only assume it was part of a larger conspiracy involving James Dolan, Carmelo Anthony, Creative Arts Agency and a metaphorical submarine full of farts.
Though he spent much of his time with the D-League Erie BayHawks, Chris did have a brief stint with New York. He played two total minutes, recorded no other stats and received some brotherly love from Earl.
The last few months were a strange, misguided experience. And Chris Smith was there for no reason.
On the other hand, the Knicks really did need all the depth they could get at point guard since Raymond Felton has been a major liability this season.
Normally, Felton likes to use his strength to keep opponents in front of him, but still lets the league's faster point guards turn the corner without much contest. He has not made that distinction this season, lacking the foot speed or the reaction time to contain anyone by any means.
Even worse, the offense-first point guard hasn't been able to penetrate whatsoever, leaving him with limited passing lanes and contested jumpers. He's shooting 39.1 percent and dishing out just 5.1 assists per game for a Knicks team that needs him to be a steady presence on offense.
Injuries have not helped Felton this season, hobbling him and further inhibiting his abilities. But when he has played, both before and after his injuries, he has not looked or produced like a starting point guard for an NBA team, hurting New York on both ends of the floor.
Boston Celtics 114, New York Knicks 73
This was the moment when delusions of a slow start were finally wiped away; this was just the beginning of a long season.
After two consecutive wins, New York fell behind the Boston Celtics by 23 points after the first quarter, and it only got worse from there: Boston hit over 50 percent of both its field goals and threes, Felton and Iman Shumpert were held scoreless and a generally lifeless home team lost by 41 points at Madison Square Garden.
No fan is prepared to lose so resoundingly and with so little fight to a bitter rival that was expected to tank this season. Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting did not get past the denial stage of grieving, titling his blog post immediately following the game, "The Knicks did not play a basketball game against the Celtics today."
Spurts of effort and bits of production from Amar'e Stoudemire and Metta World Peace counted as bright spots in this drubbing. The Knicks got beaten in every area of the game, and it wasn't at all close.
It was a shock. It sucked. There's nothing more to say.
Watch these highlights of Iman Shumpert dropping sweet, sweet buckets on the San Antonio Spurs. First of all, it'll make you feel the exact opposite of how the Celtics game made you feel. Second, it shows why watching him in every other game this season has been so crushing.
Shump was woeful in the lead-up to that game, playing with zero confidence as he got into early foul trouble, exhibited hesitant and unwise shot selection and just generally tried too hard to get back on track in spectacular fashion.
He ended up making so many mistakes that Mike Woodson put him on a short leash. Without time to get into a rhythm and with constant fear of being benched, Shump floundered.
Hopefully his outburst versus the Spurs is the start of Shumpert's expected third-year breakout rather than a pleasant blip in an otherwise depressing season. Up until now, however, the bulk of the evidence points toward more heartache.
New York Knicks 107, Milwaukee Bucks 101 (2OT)
It took the New York Knickerbockers 58 minutes to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, who entered the game with a league-worst record at 5-19 and were playing without Larry Sanders and O.J. Mayo.
Granted, the Knicks could've done it in one overtime if not for Andrea Bargnani.
Up 94-92 with 14 seconds left, Tyson Chandler pulled in an offensive rebound, turning off the shot clock and all but ensuring a New York win. Chandler kicked it out to Bargs, who should've waited to be fouled but found the open look at a three too tantalizing.
He took the shot and missed, allowing Milwaukee to get the ball back and tie the game and send it to a second OT period.
Though New York wound up winning, it was a classic moment for these Knicks, from the brain-dead mistake to the bench looking on helplessly, stunned. Even Raymond Felton's elbow-patched-blazer-and-cargo-pants look seemed oddly fitting in the ugliest way possible.
New York notched its eighth win that night, but the Knicks came out looking like losers.
Then there was J.R. Smith's performance against the Bucks, which was the distilled essence of Earl as a basketball player.
Smith attempted 17 three-pointers that night, more than any player has hit in franchise history. To make matters even more horrifying, he only hit five of them, a display of unabashed chucking matched by only three other NBA players ever.
After the game, Smith was amused to learn just how voluminous his shooting was, but in signature J.R. fashion, he told his Twitter followers, "But trust me give me that chance again I'll shoot it again!"
That's not a good philosophy, something Smith should recognize by now.
As HOOPSWORLD's Tommy Beer points out, New York is 4-2 when Smith attempts eight or fewer field goals and 2-12 when he takes 11 or more. Smith is averaging 12.3 field-goal attempts per game this season, and is hitting 35.2 percent of them; that's easily a career low and will be the worst in the league once he plays enough to qualify.
The shot selection and ball-hoggery are as bad as ever, and whatever strides he made as a facilitator and defender last season are only seen on very rare occasions. This is the worst on-court iteration of Smith the Knicks could have.
Oklahoma City Thunder 123, New York Knicks 94
Playing without Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni or Metta World Peace, all of the Knicks' issues manifested themselves at the same time. The offense was stagnant, the defense looked clueless and New York was outmatched at every position.
And this all happened on national television. On Christmas Day.
After finishing the first quarter down just six to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the Tim Hardaway, Jr.-led Knicks had a snowball's chance of pulling off a modern-day Miracle on 34th Street.
Once again, a Knicks opponent hit 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc, but this 29-point win unfolded calmly in a way the Boston debacle didn't.
That Celtics game blindsided Knick fans, making the margin of victory feel even more outrageous. Against OKC, the blowout felt like a formality: the Thunder were a great basketball team, and the Knicks were a lousy one, so the result was supposed to be that lopsided.
New York had no hope in this one, and that's even more disheartening than having hope dashed.
Every issue the Knicks are having this season can be drawn back to their head coach.
Sure, J.R. Smith is a relentless gunner, but Mike Woodson keeps giving him minutes and opportunities to shoot despite his inefficiency. Woody's quick hook has exacerbated Shump's malaise and impeded his efforts to break out of his slump.
And while Felton's injuries can't be directly connected to Woodson's minutes management, he still played his starter major minutes even when Prigioni was clearly the more effective, efficient option at point guard.
His refusal to play two point guards together is confusing. After the small-ball Knicks blitzed the league with a barrage of perimeter passes and threes last season, Woodson is obsessed with going big now, eschewing a working formula for a broken system.
On both ends of the floor, the Knicks haven't seem to have any cohesion. The offense gets bogged down in dribbling and watching Melo without moving, especially at the end of games, while the defense is a mishmash of botched assignments and desperate switches that lead to easy layups and open threes.
Before the season, the idea of firing Woodson would have been mad; after all, he started his Knicks career with a 72-34 regular season record and won New York's first playoff series since 2000.
Now he makes the same mistakes every game in the face of ample evidence proving he's wrong. His remaining at the helm is the disappointment, not his potential dismissal.