- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the New York Knicks’ playoff chances fading with just four games remaining, it’s hard not to think about what went wrong and how the 'Bockers got into this position in the first place.
The Knicks started the season with high expectations and now they could be playing out the final four games of their season with no postseason and no picks for this coming draft.
So with that in mind, who do you place the onus on for this disastrous season? Of course, everybody played a part in the Knicks’ failure this season but who do you point the finger at the most? Here are five candidates to choose from:
James Dolan: The owner truly felt that this roster had what it took to win it all when the season started. He oversaw changes in the offseason that included the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani, demotion of GM Glen Grunwald and hiring of Steve Mills.
The Knicks went in a younger direction after key veterans helped them win 54 games last season. The team’s strong ties to CAA also led to J.R. Smith’s brother, Chris, making the roster at the start of the season. And other offseason additions like Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih ended badly with buyouts.
For better or worse, Dolan opted not to make major changes in-season whether it was not trading for Kyle Lowry or keeping Mike Woodson as coach. Dolan, though, didn't completely stand pat. He deserves credit for chasing and ultimately landing Phil Jackson even if he had to give up a small fortune. The Jackson hiring gives the Knicks what feels like a tidal wave of hope for the future even if it doesn't end with a title.
Mike Woodson: The man who coached the Knicks to 54 wins a season ago won’t be able to win more than 37 games even if he finishes the season 4-0. He has had to deal with a slew of injuries to Tyson Chandler, Smith (who started the season with a five-game suspension), Raymond Felton, Bargnani and Kenyon Martin among others. But he had difficulty getting the Knicks to play consistently, there were defensive breakdowns and confusion on some nights and basketball IQ flops at the end of games against Washington and Milwaukee.
There were also embarrassingly awful losses to the Celtics, Spurs, Kings, Sixers and Lakers just to name a few. The Knicks were more inconsistent than a flip-flopping politician as guys like Chandler, Felton, Smith and Iman Shumpert all played below their 2012-2013 level. But despite all that and Phil’s hiring, Woodson oversaw a late surge in which the Knicks have won 12 of their last 17 games.
Carmelo Anthony: In what could potentially be his last season as a Knick before becoming a free agent, he’s averaging 27.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in a career-high 38.9 minutes a game. Melo authored an all-time Knick performance with 62 points against Charlotte and was often the only reason why to watch the team for much of this dreadful season. Anthony is trying to battle through a shoulder injury in an attempt to get the Knicks in the playoffs.
Anthony knew the team would look to him to lead more this season with Jason Kidd gone and he tried calling team meetings early in the season. But there’s only so much Anthony can do. The All-Star has felt the burden of the Knicks’ struggles this season according to Jackson and all this comes right before he will opt out his contract later this summer.
J.R. Smith: Smith’s 2013-’14 got off to a smashing start with offseason surgery on his left knee shortly after signing a three-year, $18-million contract in July. He then served a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program to start the season. Woodson has often pointed back toward the suspension as one of the many things that went wrong this season.
Smith, though, has come on as of late and has begun playing like the Sixth Man of the Year from last season. He has buried a total of 41 three-pointers in his last seven games and looks healthy again.
Jason Kidd: How damaging was his departure? Players have talked repeatedly about how much they miss his leadership and basketball IQ on the court and in the locker room. Without Kidd, the Knicks’ point guard play struggled with Felton going through a tough season. And as if it wasn’t bad enough that Kidd retired, he then took his smarts to the rival Nets and led them to a stunning turnaround since Jan. 1 –- all while the Knicks have been struggling.
Up now: Can the decision-making duo of Phil and Mills do special things for the Knicks next season?
The Knicks will need an Atlanta meltdown to make the playoffs.
What's next: Knicks try to keep their slim hopes alive at Toronto at 7 p.m.
Question of the day: Who do you place much of the blame on for the Knicks’ woes this season?