Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters he plans on playing his veterans for the rest of the season unless he is given directions from the team's management to do otherwise, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.
New York's 121-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday clinched the Knicks' fourth straight losing season as they dropped to 27-42. It also represented the 13th time in 16 seasons that the Knicks will finish below .500.
"For me as a professional it's my duty regardless of the situation to still try to play and try to win until they say don't play nor more or sit us down with limited minutes,'' Carmelo Anthony said following the loss. "We still have go out there and finish the season out.''
Anthony struggled on Thursday, finishing the game with 17 points and five assists but shot only 6-of-18 from the field. The 32-year old admitted that due to the preseason expectations the Knicks had, the team's struggles this season have been worse than in the past.
"This year is disappointing due to the talent we have in this locker room and team,'' said Anthony. "For some reason, we couldn't get it together and get it going. It's more difficult this season than in the past.''
Anthony told reporters he is not struggling to get up for these meaningless games at the end of the season, but did admit for the first time that following this upcoming road trip, he might be open to a minutes reduction or resting, should Hornacek or management decide to go that way.
"Maybe, maybe not,'' said the veteran leader.
As Anthony notes, it's not in a player's interest to lose on purpose. If he's on the court, he has an obligation to work hard and be dedicated to competing at a high level. This was evidenced by the star forward's late game heroics against Indiana earlier in the week.
Unfortunately, this team hasn't proven itself capable of putting forth a respectable and meaningful effort after losing to Brooklyn twice in a week. It's easy to understand why it's in a player's nature to compete for victories. When such an effort isn't coming to fruition, however, it's up to the coaching staff and a team's front office to wave the white flag and make a change. Playing young talent may not be considered deliberately trying to lose, but it certainly takes the pressure and frustration off when not winning. What's more, it gives a team an opportunity to explore opportunities for growth next season.
That's the sensible thing to do at this point in the season. So as Jeff Hornacek asserts that he'll continue playing his veterans substantial minutes, one has to wonder, why? What's the strategy behind that? With nothing more to play for this season, coming away with a straggly victory here or there will only hurt the team's draft position.
All hope is lost for this campaign, but New York will have a chance to bounce back if they can put the appropriate pieces in place this summer. In addition to shedding some of the dead weight from this campaign, that also begins with nabbing the best prospect(s) available. The reality is that the more Knicks lose the rest of the way, the better chance they will have at doing that.
It's certainly a harsh reality, but a valid one at that. Not acknowledging that this is where they're headed only further cements the state of disarray this team is in. Choosing to focus on the team's youth and gearing up for the draft would allow fans to see some light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of how faint it truly may be.
By resisting the inevitable, this organization only allows more worry to set in that they truly have no direction. There's little demonstrated awareness around the fact that they continue to fail (from the front office). The bleeding continues, and though there are ways to begin walking the path to stopping it, New York is resisting them all.