"Anytime you're fighting an uphill battle, you feel like you're in a dark place," Carmelo Anthony said. "But we can't go to that place. I've never been to that place."
J.R. Smith said he was panicking already, and that was nearly two weeks ago. Panic time, though, comes Thursday night. If the Knicks (3-13) lose to the Nets (5-12), it will feel like rock-bottom.
In reality, it's only December and the Knicks are just three games out of first in the woeful Atlantic Division. But it would feel more like the end of the world if the Knicks' losing streak reaches 10 straight with a defeat at the hands of the Nets, who have struggled to win three of their last 13 games.
This will feel like a must-win game for the Knicks. Sound absurd? Put yourself in James Dolan's designer shoes. The Knicks' owner felt like his team was a championship-caliber team coming into the season. After a franchise-record seventh straight defeat at the Garden, Dolan was seen angrily walking off the court on Sunday night.
And that was a loss to the Pelicans. Think about how steamed Dolan will be if the Knicks succumb to the Nets. Dolan has no love for Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Remember, the NBA had to reportedly broker a meeting between the two to get both to smooth things over.
Even when the Knicks and Nets were asked to play nice at a joint news conference to announce they were hosting the 2015 All-Star Weekend, representatives from both organizations looked like they were forced by commissioner David Stern to share the same stage for an hour.
James Dolan and Nets officials looked like they were forced share the stage during a news conference to announce they were hosting the 2015 All-Star Weekend.
Officials from the two teams repeatedly mentioned that day -- unsolicited -- how they have to put aside their differences for the greater good of the NBA and New York. That certainly wasn't the message David Stern had intended for a news conference designed to celebrate the All-Star Game.
During that late September event, Dolan looked like he would rather be anywhere else in the world than on a stage with a franchise that once stuck up the infamous "The Blueprint for Greatness" billboard near the Garden.
So do you still think that Thursday's game between the Knicks and Nets isn't anything more than just the first meeting between the two rivals in December?
If the Knicks lose their 10th straight in Brooklyn, the unpredictable Dolan could lose his mind. Both teams' struggles have been well-publicized thus far and at times it has felt as if both have tried topping one another in ways to lose games.
Jason Kidd has wanted to win so badly that he intentionally spilled his drink on the court and was fined $50,000 for trying to buy more time when he ran out of timeouts last week. Kidd and Kevin Garnett would love nothing more than to dig a deeper hole for the Knicks, who are already noticeably playing with the losing streak weighing heavily on them.
After taking a 93-88 lead with 6:24 left, the Knicks missed 12 of their final 13 shots and committed three turnovers to lose 103-99 to the Pelicans.
"I thought coming down the stretch, we played on our heels," coach Mike Woodson said. "The 0-8 [streak going into the game] that we are looking at here was staring at us in the face instead of relaxing and just playing. We just didn't make one play."
What will happen if the Knicks and Nets find themselves in a tight fourth quarter? The Knicks might feel like they're playing in a pressure cooker at Barclays.
Or, perhaps the sight of their rivals will inspire them to do something they haven't done in three weeks by the time Thursday comes around: bring out the best in them and win.
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Maybe the rivalry with the Nets will ignite Smith's offense; the guard exchanged verbal jabs with Paul Pierce over the summer over who runs this town. And maybe Garnett will light a fire underneath Anthony again.
"It's hard to just find answers right now," Anthony said. "We have to do something, just figure it out as a team. I don't know if we've got to sit here for hours and talk and get it all out but we've got to do something."
All the talk over the next several days will be about what's wrong with the Knicks, who don't play again until Thursday.
Over the next three days, they will be reminded about all the trash talking that has gone on between both franchises. And that might be a good thing.
"I think right now we have a couple days off and we just need to get our mental right," Anthony later added. "Everybody just needs to fix their mental status."
The Knicks and the Nets used to bicker about their status in New York. Now both teams just need a win to settle the current debate of who is the worst team in New York right now.
The Knicks, though, need this more than the Nets. A 10th straight loss, and one to the Nets no less, could feel apocalyptic.
"I don't plan on getting to that place," Anthony said of that dark place only the Knicks know right now. "We are losing. It's not a good feeling, it's a bad feeling."
"As far as getting to that dark place," Anthony added, "I don't want to get to that place."