It's been nearly two weeks since the Knicks won a game. Prior to entering what's currently a five-game losing streak, the team's 16-13 record gave them good early playoff standing, and there was reason to be optimistic. But an inability to hold their own against the more competitive teams in the league has been a glaring weakness all season long.
Included in this recent skid are losses to teams like the Celtics and Rockets. Beyond that, however, the Knicks have failed to prove themselves as a contender by not taking care of business against seemingly weaker teams.
At this point, the reasons why the bleeding has continued are abundantly clear. It's up to everyone involved -- the front office, coaching staff, and players -- to put a stop to it before it's too late. Here's a look at three of the more pressing issues...
The lack of a lockdown defender:
Right before ringing in the new year, the Knicks fell victim to one of the best performances in NBA history. James Harden became the first player to ever log a 50 point, 15 rebound, and 15 assist game. New York appeared to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him, and Harden scorched each and every player who stepped up to the plate.
But perhaps that's part of the issue. The Knicks don't have a lockdown wing defender who they can depend on to contest an opposing team's best player.
Courtney Lee was sidelined against Houston, but even he hasn't proven capable of filling such a role in a Knicks uniform. Carmelo Anthony has never been considered an elite defender, and seems to only have that sense of urgency when facing a player better than himself (see his matchups against LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, etc.).
Should Phil Jackson and Co. look to make an acquisition for a hard-nosed veteran? Do they have the pieces to do so? Can the coaching staff energize Lance Thomas or look to develop Mindaugas Kuzminskas to fill such a void? Either way, something has to give. New York continues to get burned.
The need for rotation adjustments:
One of Derek Fisher's biggest flaws as a head coach last season was that he didn't know how or when to make necessary adjustments. If the bleeding started, Fisher just allowed things to snowball downhill at a rapid pace. He wasn't experienced enough to deal with such hurdles, but Jeff Hornacek is.
Hornacek proved not to be afraid to take chances when limiting Joakim Noah's minutes in favor of younger options like Kyle O'Quinn and Willy Hernangomez. Somehow, the head coach lit the fire under his veteran and Noah's play has steadily improved. In turn, his minutes have been on an uptick as well.
Now, additional changes are needed. The Knicks need to sustain a confident attack for 48 full minutes, and as such, both the first and second unit look to be in need of different energy boosts. Whether this comes down to Anthony playing with different combinations of players, or someone like Brandon Jennings or Justin Holiday getting inserted into the starting five in favor of Lee remains to be seen. Thomas and Kuzminskas may benefit from more court time. Either way, Hornacek has to get back to aggressively experimenting.
Can Carmelo Anthony find his rhythm again?
Over the Knicks' recent 1-5 stretch, Anthony has shot 35 percent from the field and 17 percent from deep. This team's main woes are clearly on the defensive end, but Anthony's underwhelming 17.6 points over the last six games doesn't help.
As much as Kristaps Porzingis benefits from Anthony, the star forward also feeds off of the young gun's presence. The absence of Porzingis over the last two games hasn't helped. Anthony is undergoing an offensive stretch where he isn't moving as fluently without the ball. This makes it easier for opposing defenses to cover him. As such, Anthony is forcing up more contested shots and they certainly aren't falling.
The Knicks are suffering. There needs to be better ball movement as well. It appears that even with Derrick Rose in the mix, New York is isolating more and players all around are trying to be heroes. There won't be a need for that if Anthony and Co. stop standing around quite as often.