NEW YORK – Whatever one’s viewpoint may be of the new New York Knickerbockers and its new coach and its new offense and new attitude, there has to be growing concern among its fans and organizational hierarchy that these new Knicks continue to deliver more of the same old, same old.
The New Jersey Nets came to Madison Square Garden last night with both teams looking to fine-tune their offensive and defensive sets with the season five days away from its opening but only the Nets came away from this game with the confidence of knowing who their starters are and who their go-to players will be in crunch time.
The Knicks? Let’s just say they are a work in progress, making them the longest running work in progress in NBA history as they took another one on the chin, 111-110 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score might indicate.
Like many home games last season, the Knicks were booed after falling well behind in the third quarter after playing a halfway decent first half in which they trailed by only five, 62-57 after 24 minutes.
New York had a 3-second violation and a shot clock violation in the third period while the Nets ballooned their lead into a 90-69 bulge on a third quarter 28-12 run until the Knicks scored the final nine points of the quarter to cut the Net advantage to 90-78.
“I can’t accept it when we’re not ready to play mentally, physically or if we just don’t seem like our spirit is in the right place,” D’Antoni said. “I just thought the first half was woe is me and feeling sorry for myself and we just kind of disintegrated real quickly in the third and those are things we are going to have to work on curing.”
“Defensively, we’re just not real good right now and we have to get a lot better,” said D’Antoni. “Offensively, we’re okay and I was very glad by the way Jamal (Crawford) broke out tonight (30 points).
There was a loud ovation, however, in the fourth when Ewing Jr. checked in. The youngster from Georgetown, also his old man’s alma mater, hadn’t played in a home game during the preseason, but shot 3 of 3 from the field, including two monstrous dunks, one along the baseline where he took off about seven feet from the hoop and slammed it in over the Nets’ 7’2” rookie center, Brook Lopez. Ewing also hit a 3-pointer, not a usual part of his offensive repertoire. He also threw in a blocked shot for good measure.
The nine minute performance electrified the crowd and his teammates as the familiar chant of “Patrick Ewing!” rocked the Garden, once again.
“The crowd support was amazing tonight,” said Ewing. “It showed the city really likes me and they appreciate what I was doing on the floor.”
When asked what he would tell his father during their inevitable post-game phone call, the younger Ewing said, “I’ll tell him that we lost, first and foremost. I would tell him I thought I played pretty decent. We usually talk about the negative side than the positive.”
Modest kid. In actuality, he woke up the sleeping crowd with his energy and athleticism and helped lead his team back to a near victory after being down by 21 points in the late third quarter.
However, with four seconds to go in the game and the score 111-110 in the Nets favor, the Knicks took the ball out. Crawford missed the deep jumper from the corner and as they say, that was that. Maybe the comeback is a small victory for this fragile, still evolving team.
Knick Notes: Eddy Curry continued his pre-season performance of limited skills and much worse conditioning, guaranteeing his very solid position on the very end of the Knicks bench.
“We’ll see about Eddy,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve got three more days of practice. I thought Eddy had a pretty good first half tonight but just ran out of gas. We’ll keep working on it and try to get him to where it’s good. Right now, I don’t think it’s where he needs to be.”
On a night when news reports came out of Westchester, New York, specifically out of a White Plains hospital that recently deposed Knicks president and coach, Isiah Thomas, had ingested sleeping pills and was found unconscious in his home, the Knicks continued to prove during this last exhibition game before they count for real that they are basically the same players who have been at the bottom of the league for several years now.
Thomas was said to be resting comfortably at the White Plains hospital, the official word being that he accidentally took too many pills and was doing well. If Thomas had watched any of tonight’s game, he would have preferred sleeping through this than staying up to watch another befuddled Knicks team that was unable to run an offense smoothly or guard anyone on the Nets.