While losing considerably more than winning has continued a trend over the prior five years for the New York Knicks, there had been a decidedly different feel to this Knicks season.
Instead of the sensation of spiraling toward another hopeless and directionless year without a sound plan for the future, this year’s Knicks had thus far offered the optimism of a younger squad which had been fighting hard and for the most part, remained competitive, even while the losses mounted through a 4-9 start.
And then came the 10th loss, a 115-89 embarrassment to the Orlando Magic, at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
All of a sudden, all of that previous sanguinity gave way to an all too eerie reminder of what losing used to look like for New York in recent years.
Instead of competing, the Knicks, for the first time in their seven home games this year, failed to show up. They missed their first seven shots while allowing the Magic (which seems to be headed toward the NBA lottery itself this year) to score the first 10 points.
It only got uglier from there as the same type of lackluster effort and awful execution at each end of the floor which the Knicks showed over the past several years — but which they’ve largely been able to avoid this season — put New York in a 19-4 hole and a 30-10 deficit after the first quarter.
The Knicks missed 23 of 28 shots from behind the arc while shooting just 35.2 percent (31-for-88) overall. Underscoring its lack of ball movement, New York recorded just 13 assists to Orlando’s 31 and committed more than twice as many (19-9) turnovers as the Magic, which led by as much as 34 points.
If there was one saving grace, it was 36th overall pick, center Mitchell Robinson posting a franchise rookie record nine blocks. But that was the only thing to feel good about during the Knicks’ most dreadful performance of the young season.
What should have been another chance to measure the progress, growth and development of a fledgling roster trying to find its way in attempting to answer some questions about what may lay on the team’s horizon, was a major step backward, recalling the unwatchable basketball New York played for much of the past five years.
That’s where David Fizdale, in his first year as the Knicks’ latest of six head coaches over that time, comes in. Will Fizdale help New York limit the way his team played in its last game to simply an aberration, or might that become the start of the same old bad habits which plagued Fizdale’s predecessors and ultimately cost them their jobs?
Time will tell, and for such a young team learning on the fly, ups and downs are all part of the development process. That’s perfectly fine as long as major steps backward are ultimately followed by enough significant steps forward to feel good enough about the overall team and individual player evolution by the season’s end.
But for one night, the previously hard-working and primarily competitive Knicks gave an all too uncomfortable reminder of what they’ve been trying to leave in the past.