NEW YORK – If there was ever a thought that these new New York Knicks would jump out to a roaring start of their 2008-09 season under new coach Mike D’Antoni, those flights of fancy have now disappeared. They spent another 48 minutes tonight at home against the Milwaukee Bucks in a rudder-less, unenergetic, passion-free state in losing their second game in a row, 94-86 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close the score might indicate.
The Knicks coach, who typically begins his post-game press conferences almost immediately after games end kept his team sequestered in the locker room for several minutes after tonight’s snooze-fest. He was clearly not a happy camper when he finally came out.
“It’s the spirit and the energy that we play with,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t want to. I was just talking to them. We never attack until we get into a desperate situation. It’s like we were on our heels the whole game and we’re kind o waiting for something bad to happen to us.
The three players on the Knicks D’Antoni most counts on to provide energy and leadership on the court were miserable tonight. Chris Duhon, the new point guard in place of personna non grata Stephon Marbury, took the reins and came up empty. Duhon shot just 2 of 6 from the field for a measly 6 points to go along with just 3 assists. The question pops up in one’s mind whether Marbury could have done any better than that performance.
Duhon’s backcourt mate, Jamal Crawford had one of the worst games of his career at exactly the time his team needed him to come up big. Instead, Crawford had 1 point tonight. Let me repeat that. The Knicks high-scoring shooting guard had 1 point in 32 minutes on the court. He was 0 – 6 shooting zero rebounds, zero steals, and zero energy on the floor.
“Our energy was very low right from the start,” said Crawford. “We battled back at the end of the first quarter, second quarter, we were down by four points. The third quarter we just kind of fell apart, we got it back again, but our energy has got to get better.”
The odd thing is Crawford and the rest of these Knicks, most of whom were on the 23 win team last year, used to say the same things last season after games. Deja vu all over again?
In D’Antoni’s offensive system, where everyone takes shots and the ball finds every player on the floor through sharp passing and cutting, it’s almost impossible for a D’Antoni shooting guard to score 1 point.
David Lee is the new starting power forward because his game and talents are all about energy and put-backs and court vision as well as rebounding and leadership. Tonight, Lee fell victim to the dreaded disease that has inflicted the Knicks for several years now, head down-itis, especially when the game starts to get away from the team.
“I don’t think we played well all around,” he said in a small understatement. “Personally, I got into foul trouble and didn’t playthe way I should have played. Moving forward, I am going to have to come out and play a lot better. I’m one of the guys that is supposed to lead us not only statistically but with energy. I think our 37% energy at the start of the game was not the way it should have been and I will take responsibility for that.”
The Knicks didn’t make a good percentage of their shots tonight, only 30-81, 37%, but it was on the boards in the third quarter where the Bucks, a decidedly lacking team in the talent department, simply out-hustled the Knicks. The Bucks corraled 13 rebounds in the quarter to the Knicks paltry 4, as the visiting Milwaukee team blew open the game with a 26-16 advantage in the quarter, leading to an overall 75-61 lead after three. It was too big a margin for the flat Knicks to overcome in the final period.
D’Antoni has a strategy to improve the Knicks performance.
“We’re going to have to get over this waiting for something bad to happen to us,” he said. “We’ll get over that with the group and the spirit of how we approach the game and how we approach practice and everything else. It’s going to be our big push forward, just to get our collective energy and atack.”
Haven’t we heard all of this before? Stay tuned.